Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Schoor DePalma founder pleads guilty to federal corruption charges

Howard Schoor, who helped found the prominent engineering firm Schoor DePalma in 1969, told a U.S. District Court judge Monday that he paid two Ocean Township, New Jersey sewerage authority officials $15,000 in 2000 and 2001, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

"I am guilty," the 69-year-old engineer said during a hearing in federal court in Newark, New Jersey.

Schoor said the payments were a reward for the officials' supporting efforts by the firm, then known as Schoor DePalma, to win contracts with the agency. The firm has been involved in high-profile projects throughout New Jersey and has donated millions of dollars to the campaigns of numerous state politicians, according to the Star-Ledger article.

Schoor stepped down as CEO of the firm in 1992, according to the article. He began selling his shares in 1996 and then started working as a consultant for the firm. Schoor left the firm in 2005 and was indicted in 2006. The firm changed its name to CMX in September 2007.

According to Schoor's attorney, he "accepts responsibility" for his crime, but stressed the payments were solicited by the two officials. "The government and Mr. Schoor agree that all services were performed by Schoor DePalma in a 'professional and proper manner," said Schoor's attorney, Justin Walder, in a statement, quoting language he negotiated with prosecutors for the plea agreement.

Schoor could face between 8 and 14 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Nobile said, according to the article.

CMX issued a statement saying the firm was "disappointed and saddened" by Schoor's guilty plea because "he was clearly an important figure in the founding of Schoor DePalma." But the statement added that "it is important to note that this action in no way involves CMX," according to the Star-Ledger article.

The firm and its employees have donated nearly $3 million to New Jersey politicians and political parties at the state and county levels over the past quarter-century, mostly to Democrats, according to the article. It ceased giving donations several years ago amid criticism of pay-to-play, the practice of awarding government contracts to campaign contributors, and the corruption investigation into Schoor.

The firm's government clients--which account for about half of its work-- have included the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and more than five dozen local governments. CMX says it is the region's premier engineering firm, with more than 1,000 employees in 25 offices from New York to Mexico.


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