Christie defends Sandy contract with firm that got canned

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a press conference on Washington Street, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hoboken, New Jersey. About 1 million homes and businesses across New Jersey are still without electricity due to Superstorm Sandy on Sunday, and officials say many of those customers may not have service restored until Wednesday. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

SEA BRIGHT — Gov. Christie called questions about the performance history of a company drafting a plan to spend billions in Sandy relief money “ridiculous stuff that’s just meant to inflame.”

Christie, speaking at a firehouse on the Jersey Shore alongside an Obama cabinet official, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, said that he had confidence in the bidding process that led to his administration’s selection of the Massachusetts-based company, CDM Smith.

My article Wednesday highlighted the fact that CDM was fired last year for botching its rebuilding contract in Galveston, Tex., in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Christie said that was just one contract in one place, and after a competitive bidding process against five other companies and involving checks on references, the state Department of Community Affairs correctly selected the "experts" at CDM.

“If, in fact, you are going to exclude every company who ever has had a disgruntled customer than basically Matt Katz will be doing all of the work here on behalf of rebuilding the state," Christie said.

(I didn't apply for the contract, for the record, and that's probably a good thing for everyone involved.)

Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella also pointed out that the Galveston contracted involved implementing a housing construction program, while in New Jersey CDM will only be drafting a plan for giving out the Community Development Block Grants. CDM did not respond to calls Wednesday or today to confirm that distinction.

The funds that CDM would be involved with could reach $6 billion and is part of the $50 billion Sandy aid package from Congress that Christie lobbied so publicly for. The CDM contract, worth about $9.5 million over three years, will be paid from that pot.

For his part, Donovan said he “cannot” comment on the Galveston contract or CDM, but he said that a federal management office will be set up to “make every dollar transparent to citizens.”

Let's start the transparency right now. I'm not an expert in contracts, but are you? If so, here's the contract. Here's the "request for quotation" that led to the contract. And here's a letter from the Texas government, indicating the problems in Galveston that led to CDM losing the contract.