In an entry on April 11, we discussed a bid protest filed by an unsuccessful bidder who submitted a proposal in connection with New Jersey’s decision to lease Monmouth Park Racetrack to a private operator. A hearing took place on the protest on April 16. The hearing officer assigned to the protest recommended that the protest be overruled and that the lease of Monmouth Park to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Asssociation be permitted to go forward. On April 19, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (“NJSEA”) approved the hearing officer’s report, and on April 20 the Governor’s Office approved the report.
In essence, the NJSEA concluded that it has broad discretion in awarding contracts. The NJSEA is authorized to award a contract to the bidder who submits the bid that is in the best interest of the NJSEA, and that the NJSEA had authority to negotiate with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association regarding the terms of the contract. Moreover, the NJSEA concluded that the unsuccessful bidder was disqualified from being awarded the contract due to political contributions over the permitted maximum that New Jersey bidders may make to political organizations. Interestingly, the NJSEA concluded that, because the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is a non-profit entity, its own political contributions do not disqualify it from a contract award.
The disappointed bidder has expressed its intention to file an immediate appeal of the NJSEA’s decision, so with the racing season starting in early May, we can expect some more news on this front soon.