Monday, November 21, 2011

Horse Sense: FBI Data Theft Conspiracy is not over, it's beginning

After a solid week of silence the Hudson Reporter's Al Sullivan got the memo on what to say about the FBI uncovering a massive data theft ring conspiracy at City Hall. If you thought he would focus on the conduit who's already confessed or the implications of the damage done to Hoboken, you'd be completely wrong.

This past weekend, Al Sullivan showed what happens if you get in the Old Guard's way. He could barely contain his enthusiasm to take on the "bloggers" who "blatantly and unfairly accused" Council members Michael Russo and Beth Mason and her minion of being connected to the Data Theft Ring.

MSV doesn't recall discussing Michael Russo much on this other than questioning him in City Council on whether he saw any of the the emails under FBI investigation he was requesting in a resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Beth Mason.  He mumbled to direct the questions to the chair and declined to provide a yes or no on the question.

Not to say he's innocent. Anyone who spent so much questionable time hanging out with Patrick Ricciardi is certainly dead center in the investigation and if Ricciardi's ex-wife says that's trouble, who are we to argue?

As noted by that nutty scribe bludiamonds, Al Sullivan avoided stating any central fact in the FBI Data Theft Ring Conspiracy writing about bloggers 9 times while mentioning the FBI and Patrick Ricciardi, the confessed data ring theft kingpin zero times.

Please send us the memo the FBI investigation is a wrap because MSV didn't get it. Of course Al Sullivan could turn out at least partially right if some of the people on the FBI list land up flipping and going Solomon Dwek FBI informant on the others. Maybe some already have.

We'll call that a moral victory for Al Sullivan. Keep up the bad work Al. This horse sense editorial is for Al and the Old Guard he's dedicated to and loves.


Hola Board to school's director: Say Hola to unemployment

A rare weekend story from Jessica Rosero on Hoboken Patch noted charter school discontent surrounding  the dispatch of the Hola school director Maria Acosta.

The apparent dismissal is the latest in a wave of others at the charter school.  The lasted was noted in a November 10 email by Hola board president Jen Sargent stating Acosta had been placed on administrative leave.

There's no stated reason why Acosta was suddenly let go during the school year.  The Hola Board is not saying but there's hints of an emerging pattern noted on Grafix Avenger.

Grafix Avenger highlights the State law for public schools and the odd notice from the Hola Board President that appears to acknowledge a coup d'├ętat may have taken place outside of NJ law.

Another open question at Hola revolves around its school construction last summer and Frank Raia, a controversial figure in Hoboken elections where legions of Hoboken Housing Authority residents continue to find regular payments, usually for $40 to "campaign" and continuously vote absentee (vote by mail).

Raia who sits on the Hola board of trustees looks to have garnered a windfall construction contract this past summer in a no bid process - a clear violation of State law.

Previously MSV has questioned the use of the Boys and Girls Club by the charter school.  There's numerous tax problems in the arrangement and the negative impact on the original clients - disadvantaged children in the neighborhood was covered here earlier.

MSV ran into one HoLa parent this weekend.  She was tight lipped about the reason for Maria Acosta's apparent dismissal and without addressing any details said she "stood by the Board's decision."

Hola Board Trustee member Frank "Pupie" Raia is again in the middle of controversy.
Turnover at the Hola school has been very high in its short existence with concern about
the Board overstepping its role and legal authority in dismissing the school director.

Here's the HoLa board and their respective email addresses:

Board of Trustees

Jennifer Hindman Sargent, President
Barbara Martinez, Vice President
Tia Narciso, Treasurer
Susan Costomiris, Trustee
Anthony Petrosino, Trustee
George Duke, Trustee
Frank Raia, Trustee
Jennifer Austin, Trustee

Talking Ed Note: MSV hasn't fully told the Boys & Girls Club story with Hola and most media outlets have completely ignored that story - except for our colleague Grafix Avenger. The common denominator in media avoidance - Frank Raia, an Old Guard stalwart who when named a year ago in criminal referrals in the Lenz-Occhipinti election saw complete media silence.

Those complaints went to the NJ Attorney General's Office and could very well remain an open matter. Raia hasn't only been throwing his weight around on local elections and Hola construction projects, he's also been seen at BoE meetings in recent months. The less than open secret among the Old Guard is he intends to take over the school system from Kids First and bring back his old time patrongage system where audits were ignored year to year and sent to the video "cleaners" to keep the public from seeing. 

When an audit's results were aired at a 2010 BoE meeting, the tape was scrubbed removing that portion before it was telecast on cable. MSV investigated but was told by the technician it was most assuredly a technical problem. Who was the technician?

Patrick Ricciardi.

Superintendent Carter did not accept the explanation and promptly relieved Ricciardi of his services. (Not to worry, Ricciardi was able to absorb that loss of work and make more than 200K in earnings from his City job's base salary of 73K.

 Raia is eager to run again and has his slate all but announced.  Several sources say Pupie is planning a ticket with himself at the top with Anthony Oland joined by current Trustee Maureen Sullivan. Maureen Sullivan?

 Go ahead and explain this to those in the Hoboken Republicans who backed Maureen First. People have long warned Maureen Sullivan would pull a Beth Mason and sign on with the Old Guard. Spin that one.

Councilman Dave Mello: Hospital saved but obstructionist damage is continuing

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Let's start with some truly wonderful news: Hoboken's hospital has been sold; will remain open for business; and no longer must be kept afloat by the Hoboken taxpayer.

Yet, despite this fabulous news that the hospital sale has finally cleared, this past Monday Hoboken's City Council met and voted negatively on a surprisingly divisive issue: should we approve relatively routine year-end budget line item transfers.  I'm very sorry to say that this line-item transfer vote failed with a 5-4 vote.  

Specifically, this vote was to approve line item budget transfers of approximately two percent of the City's yearly budget.  Put simply, we're at the end of Hoboken's budget year, and some budget line items came in under budget, while others came in over budget.  However, the administration can't legally just move this money across line items.  Instead, we on the City Council needed to approve these "line item transfers" with at least a 6-3 vote.  I, and four of my colleagues, voted in favor of the transfers; four of my colleagues - the "Council Minority" - did not.  One no vote came from a colleague who is also on the Council's Revenue and Finance Committee with me, and had every opportunity to ask probing questions about these transfers, yet still voted no.  The result: the vote failed.

What does this all mean?  Well, there are now a number of budget items that can't be paid, including:
  • Overtime pay accrued by our Hoboken fire department, which was hundreds of thousands of dollars above what was originally budgeted for in their salary and wages line item.
  • Legal fees owed to our bankruptcy attorney, Mr. Paul Hollander, who played a vital and significant role in saving Hoboken's hospital and ridding we, the taxpayers, of a $52 million bond guarantee made in 2007.

In regards to these transfers, I had the following comments before we voted to approve or disapprove them at Monday's meeting:

If the hospital bankruptcy had not been resolved, the sale of the hospital would not have gone through.  If the sale of the hospital had not gone through, the hospital would have closed its doors.  If the hospital closed its doors, the bond holders of over $50 million in bond debt would have "called the bond" and we, the Hoboken taxpayers, would have been on the hook for over $50 million.  This "bond call" would have resulted in a quick and back-breaking property tax increase across Hoboken.  All residents would have been affected to varying, extreme levels.

Our bankruptcy attorney, Mr. Paul Hollander, played a vital role in avoiding this imminent fate.  He cleared the way for the sale of the hospital and he negotiated a settlement that, in the words of the bankruptcy judge provided "extraordinary relief" to the Hoboken taxpayer because this judgement fully indemnified us, and precluded the creditors, who the hospital owed over $30 million to, from coming after the City of Hoboken for these debts owed (we were the deep pockets in this equation).  We, the Hoboken taxpayers, were protected by the efforts of Mr. Hollander.  He earned his pay, and it is money well spent and justly due.  More importantly, he can be paid out of funds already present in our budget.  Mr. Hollander should be paid.  He should be paid immediately.  Four of my Council colleagues don't seem to think he should.

Sadly, this vote was just one of many recent votes where the "Council Minority" has been clearly obstructionist.  These obstructive votes amount to a chaotic "cutting off your nose to spite your face" financial policy where, unfortunately, it is the fiscal face of Hoboken residents that is being mutilated.

Please join me in fighting against further obstructionist tactics by some of our elected officials.  You can reach out to me via this email if you would like to help out in any way.

Thank you for your time and thank you for reading.

All my best,