Thursday, September 27, 2012

Russo FBI Dwek controversy boils over as Hoboken Patch yanks "bribe" column

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE





Hoboken Patch yanks column discussing Michael Russo's FBI Dwek problem citing "false statements"

Hoboken Patch days after publishing a column asking if Councilman Mike Russo did in fact take a bribe from an FBI informant in 2009 yanked the feature yesterday without warning.

The post written by Scott Siegel stems from missing campaign finance records in the "Russo for Hoboken" account and was titled, "Did he or didn't he?" As in did Councilman Mike Russo in fact take a $5,000 bribe and deposit it into his "Russo for Hoboken" account?

MSV had linked to the post in yesterday's story and later discovered it had been pulled. Questions immediately began swirling why the column was taken down.

Scott Siegel, an unpaid Hoboken Patch blogger had the original story published days ago and it was unusual in respect to comments as Old Guard backers and political operatives typically appearing there look to be operating under orders not to engage the re-emergence of Councilman Michael Russo's FBI Solomon Dwek problem.

Russo's 2009 campaign reports are incomplete and missing transactions cover the time period when FBI informant Solomon Dwek handed out monies all over Hudson County, the same time as a lunch was captured on a hidden surveillance camera in Jersey City.  The lunch was attended by Councilman Mike Russo, Solomon Dwek, Denis Jaslow and Maher Khalil discussing support for a Hoboken development.

Unlike Mike Russo's completed 2011 council campaign, there's been no explanation why there's been no filing.  New Jersey has strict laws on reporting campaign finances and the "Russo for Hoboken" account is under investigation.

Siegel's attempts to find out why his column was suddenly pulled haven't been answered beyond a stand-in editor's communication "false statements" appeared and he should take it up with the Regional Editor.

An excerpt of the column hit on what MSV wrote a week back Monday concerning Mike Russo:

His failure to report is stated by Dawn Zimmer: “No ELEC reports for Russo for Hoboken have been filed since September 2008, meaning that no filings have been made covering the period when the offered payment would have been deposited. The last filing for Russo for Hoboken shows a cash balance of $18,420.81 as of July 15, 2008 – funds that have never been accounted for. The Russo for Hoboken account seems to have just disappeared, together with the $18,420.81 cash balance. Councilman Russo later formed a brand new account with a zero balance, with no mention of the prior Russo for Hoboken account or the missing $18,420.81”.

As I stated earlier it appeared that Michael Russo did not consummate the bribe. However, his failure to file and his recent absence at the council meeting are raising new questions. I call on Michael or his treasurer John Castellano (son of 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano and the current treasurer for the above mentioned Frank Raia new BOE slate) to release updated ELEC reports and accompany those with bank statements so that we can finally learn whether or not Michael Russo ever cashed checks from Dwek.

Councilman Mike Russo before a recent Council meeting shares a moment with Hoboken Patch editor Claire Moses.

Scott Siegel has been a regular speaker at City Council meetings especially on areas of finance.  He's been especially critical of the council minority and Councilwoman Beth Mason's efforts to leave the city with no surplus in its operations.

Most recently, he moved from Hoboken for family reasons. A political activist over many years, Siegel has participated on many reform oriented campaigns and is a supporter of Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

MSV has sought comment from Hoboken Patch editor Claire Moses and also the regional editor but has received no reply.

Talking Ed Note: Questions are swirling if the Russo family threatened Hoboken Patch with a lawsuit or if the Feds intervened but no one has the answer.