Commish worries contract row could delay patronage probe of Trenton Parking Authority | News

Bizar Male

TRENTON  Smile, Bill Watson and Perry Shaw III.

You may be off the hook, for now. 

A contract row between the city and the Maley Givens law firm could halt an ongoing probe into an alleged patronage deal involving the Trenton Parking Authority.

The Collingswood firm’s $25,000 contract was indefinitely tabled Thursday until council members get answers from the law department.

West Ward councilman Robin Vaughn grilled interim law director Wes Bridges at the council meeting about why the firm continued doing work for the Trenton Ethics Board while not under contract.

Maley Givens’ $35,000 deal expired June 30, 2020, according to records.

The Trenton Ethics Board is separate from council, but legislators control the purse strings and must approve funds for the law firm.

Now that a new contract hasn’t been approved, one TPA commissioner wondered if it may stall the ethics probe from moving forward.

“This is all news to me,” TPA commissioner Anne LaBate said in a phone interview after the contract was pulled over the rub.  

LaBate and commissioner Evangeline Ugorji have been waiting for a final decision from the ethics board since filing a complaint against Watson and Shaw last year.

She was concerned the contract row could hamper the law firm’s investigatory progress and discourage people from using the ethics board in the future because it takes too long to act.

Bridges admitted under Vaughn’s cross examination that Maley Givens has two overdue invoices.

He couldn’t immediately produce the outstanding figure when The Trentonian asked for it.

The contract dispute comes at a critical time as the ethics board last month authorized Maley Givens to issue subpoenas to major players in an alleged corrupt deal involving current and past members of TPA’s Board of Commissioners.

The four commissioners who approved the $120,000 contract with lone bidder KEJ Associates LLC face possible expulsion from the board.

Top cop Angelo Onofri said he was aware of the alleged dirty deal but his office awaited a referral before launching a criminal investigation.


Trenton Parking Commissioners from left to right, Harry Reyes, Scott Rice, Bill Watson, Andrew Worek.

Surprisingly, Vaughn was the one with the most scruples over the Maley Givens contract as she’s leading an effort to remove the commissioners from office. 

TPA board attorney Michael Ash has vowed to fight back with a potential court showdown looming.

Vaughn peppered Bridges about why the contract lingered and if it was approved by the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the city’s financial decisions.

Bridges promised answers with hopes council re-dockets the contract resolution for the next meeting.     

Maley Givens’ probe centers on the actions of TPA chairman Watson, the brother of Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

He’s accused of manipulating and orchestrating a workaround Trenton ethical rules as part of an alleged wink-and-nod deal for ex-commissioner Shaw. 

Shaw landed a high-paying gig as executive director for KEJ Associates LLC of Lawrence.

The KEJ firm, owned and founded by parking industry guru Princeton University transportation director Kim E. Jackson, was hired last year as a TPA consultant.

Watson allegedly wanted to hire ex-commish Shaw directly in an executive director role but it would have contravened ethics rules.

Commissioner can’t work for the Parking Authority within a year of their resignation from the board.

Watson allegedly proposed an end run around the rules by having TPA hire the KEJ firm, which, in turn, agreed to bring on Shaw.

KEJ landed the lucrative deal after it was the only company to respond to a Request for Qualifications in late 2019.


Perry Shaw, Executive Director of A Better Way NJ, speaks at a press conference at Trenton’s City Hall where the mayor announced a new hiring policy for city jobs that relaxes requirements for formerly incarcerated individuals seeking employment with the city. 

Two commissioners alleged a shady and rigged procurement process, in which job specifications were unilaterally altered without board permission so KEJ wouldn’t face stiff competition.

The company was founded a day after the job call went out. 

The Maley Givens law firm said in a letter to the ethics board last month it suspected coordination between Watson, Shaw and KEJ owners, given some of the evidence it already has.

Watson and Shaw are still being investigated for using their office for personal benefit.

Shaw, a former council candidate, may have also violated another section of the rules that says ex-commissioners can’t “represent, appear or negotiate on behalf of any other party” to TPA within a year of resigning from the board.

Shaw handed in his TPA walking papers Jan. 30, 2020 and took over as KEJ consultant on Feb. 1.

He and Watson have denied wrongdoing but stopped responding to Trentonian inquiries. 

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