Another vendor linked to solar pleads guilty

The Star-Ledger reported yesterday that another one-time executive from the now defunct Birdsall Services Group admitted his role in funneling more than a million dollars to politicians in exchange for contracts and favors -- all this in direct violation of the state's ban on pay-to-play schemes.  Reporter S.P. Sullivan wrote:

A top executive of the politically connected engineering firm toppled by an investigation into illegal campaign contributions admitted Monday to his role in the scheme, authorities said.

Former Birdsall Services Group senior vice president William Birdsall, 67, pleaded guilty to a single charge of third-degree misconduct by a corporate official in front of Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl in Ocean County.

Birdsall, of Manchester, is the brother of the firm's former CEO Howard Birdsall, who received a four-year sentence for the scheme last month.

The Monmouth County firm folded in 2013 after investigators found the Birdsalls and their employees were reimbursed by the company for donations they made individually to New Jersey politicians, in violation of the state's pay-to-play laws.

The Star-Ledger has obtained documents that meticulously outline how one politically connected firm parlayed campaign donations into millions of dollars in government contracts. It's the ultimate pay-to-play handbook — and we're naming names.

Under a plea deal, William Birdsall is banned from bidding on public contracts in the state and prosecutors will recommend he serve a 270-day sentence in county jail. He also paid the state the $129,115 he illegally donated on behalf of the firm, along with a $75,000 public corruption profiteering penalty, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

William Birdsall is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

The Birdsall Services Group was at the center of the Sussex solar scam that has cost county taxpayers upwards of $38 million.  Two of its members were part of the Solar Proposal Evaluation Team that wrote the 2011 document used to sell the solar deal to the Sussex County Freeholders. The evaluation team was put together by John Eskilson.  In 2015, Freeholders Richard Vohden, Phil Crabb, and Dennis Mudrick supported the bailout of the failed solar scheme.  These same freeholders later rewarded Eskilson with a position as a trustee with the Sussex County Community College.