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Trap Rock Industries Inc. v. Kohl

Decided: June 30, 1971.

TRAP ROCK INDUSTRIES, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN C. KOHL, COMMISSIONER OF TRANSPORTATION, AND JAMES R. SCHUYLER, STATE HIGHWAY ENGINEER, RESPONDENTS



Kilkenny, Halpern and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, P.J.A.D.

Kilkenny

On May 7, 1971 the State Commissioner of Transportation made a determination that "Michael J. Stavola/Trap Rock Industries, Inc., be suspended from bidding until satisfactory explanations for the items contained in the indictment are adduced to satisfy this Department that Michael J. Stavola/Trap Rock Industries, Inc., possess the moral integrity to qualify as a bidder."

Trap Rock Industries, Inc., prosecutes this appeal from that administrative determination. This company is a contractor and had been prequalified with the Department of Transportation prior to the above suspension.

The indictment referred to in the order of suspension, a copy of which was attached to the Commissioner's determination, charged that Michael J. Stavola and Joseph Martinelli,

between October 19, 1970 and March 17, 1971, did in four-named municipalities in New Jersey, conspire in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:98-1 and 2A:98-2 to commit three specified crimes. The purported crimes constituting the basis of the alleged conspiracy all related to efforts made by Stavola and Martinelli to (1) induce Detective James Sweeney of the New Jersey State Police to intercede for Michael J. Stavola, defendant in a pending indictment for assault and battery upon a police officer, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:85-1 and 2A:85-14;(2) offer a bribe to Detective Sweeney in the same matter, and (3) obstruct justice by Sweeney's endeavours to obtain a favorable disposition of the police officer assault and battery indictment.

The second count of the indictment charged the same defendants, in relation to the same matter, with violations of N.J.S.A. 2A:85-1, 2A:85-5 and 2A:85-14. The third count charged attempted bribery of Detective Sweeney for the same purpose, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:85-1 and 2A:85-14. The fourth count charged an obstruction of justice, all in relation to the same subject matter, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:85-1 and 14. In brief, the four-count indictment involves the same subject matter, but charges the alleged offense in various aspects.

Trap Rock Industries, Inc., and Michael J. Stavola, its principal officer and stockholder, were notified by the Commissioner and given an opportunity to present any additional information at a hearing which might tend to substantiate the existing classification of being a "responsible" bidder. Stavola denied the charges set forth in the indictment but declined to elaborate thereon.

At the hearing no proof was received by the Commissioner as to the truth of the recitals in the indictment. The minutes of the grand jury were not disclosed to or examined by the Commissioner.

In brief, disqualification from bidding has been visited by the Commissioner upon this corporate public contractor solely on the basis of the indictment itself against its principal

officer and 80% stockholder and Stavola's failure to explain satisfactorily and justify the unproven recitals in the indictment. There is no question as to the competency of Trap Rock Industries, Inc., to perform any public contract which might be awarded to it. The company has the equipment, the experience, the supervisory and other personnel, financial stability and ability to post any required performance bond, all as demonstrated by a previous determination of qualification.

The reason for suspending the right to bid and enter into a contract with the State for public work is the Commissioner's determination that the indictment, not satisfactorily explained away at an administrative hearing, is sufficient evidence of a lack of "moral ...


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