Sunday, May 20, 2012

What really happened with Beth Mason's massive street money operation and FBI "correspondence" last summer?


Last August, MSV finally obtained the details of Beth Mason's $52,000 in street money.  On July 1st, in an interview after a City Council meeting, Mason claimed the complete campaign report was filed, but it hadn't.  Much later the details of her massive street money campaign would be separately filed and revealed in detail here.
(See original story below.)

Did Beth Mason really pay Michal Russo's expectant wife $1,000 with her so close to delivering a baby girl Russo himself would mention had already been born on election night?

At Church Towers Mason doled out nearly $8,000 to individuals close to the Russo's including Michael Holmes' wife ($1,500), his in-laws ($1,000), Ray Monaco Sr. and Jr. ($1,200), David Machuca ($1,000), Ahesette Santiago ($1,000) among others.

Were all these monies paid out to to the Russo family and Russo loyalists clear across town from the second ward for campaign work or was it tribute for other election activities of a nefarious nature?

A year later, these and other payments including some odd itemized payments to Bluewater Operations remain suspicious.

Who is the mysterious Alex Lesiak (Lesniak?) listed as paid more than $4,000 but with no address listed as legally required?

This laundered campaign report smells as bad almost a year later as last August.

The Feds should take a close look at the report and all the individuals.
Let's find out what these payments were really made for!

Talking Ed Note: At a special meeting of the City Council last June, then chair Beth Mason complained her effort to zero out the surplus was being obstructed by the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs who were required to approve the Hoboken budget.

They declined to do so citing numerous clearcut financial errors forcing the Hoboken City Council to make the corrections in July when lame duck Councilman Nino Giacchi would be replaced by Councilwoman Jen Giattino.

More curious than the obvious intent to leave the City of Hoboken helpless to any extraordinary expense was a statement Councilwoman Beth Mason made defending her criticism of the DCA.

She claimed she would make public the correspondence between her and the DCA and also the FBI who she repeatedly said was willing to work to make thousands of emails public under investigation.

Councilwoman Carol Marsh expressed interest in seeing the correspondence on both.
To our knowledge she's never received any.

Here's the actual unedited 17 second video clip:

So why hasn't Councilwoman Mason made public her FBI correspondence?  
She said she would "absolutely" do so.


Mason street money revealed: "permanent press" or merely laundered?

Councilwoman Beth Mason has finally provided the detailed expenditures for the extraordinary $52,000 in street money for the second ward election in May and it raises as many questions as it appears to answer.  No one is paid for friendship so what are they really all being paid for in these hefty amounts?

It has the familiar scent of Tim Occhipinti's page after page after page of paid campaign workers who also voted in some shape or form revealing standard earnings usually in the $40 range.  But the difference is this is the Beth Mason campaign and $40 just won't do.  The amounts are far higher and there's circumstantial evidence this has been concocted with the idea of anything but transparency.

Church Towers is well represented in Beth Mason's street money operations especially the Baptista family
who are now also part of the Russo family. (Click to enlarge.)

For example, Beth Mason paid a consulting company Bluewater Operations on a regular basis through the campaign in amounts usually in $5,000 increments.  But in this detailed street money report she also directly pays its two owners, Brian Walensky ($4,100) and Ryan Yacco (2,450).  Odd?  Certainly.  Definitive? No.

There's a series of payments to Church Towers residents and many come in chunky $1,000 amounts.  Among a group of 10, there's one curious resident, a mom of a newborn who instead of being preoccupied in a different ward with a baby seems to have found work for Beth Mason on her campaign to the tune of $1,000 and also happens to be the wife of 3rd ward Councilman Mike Russo - Lisa Baptista.  Then there's also two more Baptista's who also happen to reside in Church Towers: Amelia and Anthony. They come in at $500 a pop.

Are you starting to get the freshly laundered smell?

Then there's the numerous residents with 2nd ward addresses who receive typically $70.00 each for 'campaigning' or is it voting?  Oddly, there is a strong preponderance of Spanish surnames and they reside in Applied Housing buildings.

There's one person, Alex Lesiak (sp?) who is suspicious not for the two payments of $2,050 but for the blank space where an address should be for both listings.

The numbers of people from all over Hoboken and outside is impressive with just one example being a Justin Belfiore of 11th street for $25.00.  Did they all work on election day in the 2nd ward?  Or did they also carry a presence in the 5th ward for Scott Delea?

Will the local media continue to show no "permanent" interest in any of this?  Maybe so, but more importantly will the NJ Attorney General and/or the Feds?

Hoboken's absolute street money queen Beth Mason
(Click the travel mug for more.)

The complete Street Money Mason listings at the jump:

Superintendent Toback: Potential new charter school adds "segregative effect," cuts to district "will inhibit progress"

Da Vinci school charter application if approved will see negative impact to most children

Dr. Mark Toback, Hoboken's superintendent of the school district issued a report to the NJ Education commissioner of the impact on a fourth charter school to most of the district's children.  Be prepared to hear more about the "segregative effect" such an addition will have on the demographics and the impact on class size and programs the majority of other students will suffer with a loss of $1.4 million if a fourth charter is approved.

Channel 77 is currently running the last BoE meeting where a mostly respectful dialogue took place among parents of the Hoboken school district and founders of the hoped for Da Vinci school.  Two notable exceptions and one involved Hoboken resident and Reform activist Carrie Phillips who during the public portion was continuously interrupted by BoE trustee Maureen Sullivan.

Phillips criticized Sullivan for her disparaging remarks about the district as a sitting BoE member.  Sullivan a proponent of charter schools repeatedly interjected she felt no such compelling requirement to act in such a manner  Sullivan has called for cuts repeatedly in the district budget but she doesn't put forward a resolution specifying where they should be made.

Creation of a fourth charter school has the same impact as cuts and no one should overlook the reality of such.  Superintendent Toback stated in the weekend paper "...we don't have the money to fund a fourth" charter school.

Hoboken resident Laura Siegel the founder of Da Vinci says "Different schools can be a benefit for different kids" calling the school an "exciting option."  She stated in the paper over the weekend the  BoE resolution against the new charter will not be an obstacle to Da Vinci's approval by the State of NJ.

After watching most of the comments on both sides of the new charter issue, what's clear is if there's not a further "segregative effect," and based on the data presented by Dr. Toback it in fact will worsen, the obvious case of "a tale of two cities" in education would be further established if not an outright "separate but equal" educational concept.

There's valid arguments made on both sides but one striking factor is clear from the proponents of the new charter.  There's little or no concern on the impact to the vast majority of district students in creating a new charter to benefit themselves.

There's additional problems among Hoboken's expanding families and the demand for more charters.  The community as a whole does not have a direct vote on the creation of more charters impacting their taxes.  The district will react to the creeping cost on its base funding by increasing taxes to offset the loss - and likely by more than the 2% cap.  Several years of a flat tax levy at the BoE will end and costs will begin spiraling once more.

Maybe the tale is really one quite familiar in Hoboken: "I got mine."  That's a tale most Hobokenites are well familiar.

Dr. Mark Toback is seeking a balance between Hoboken's current three charter schools and the disparate impact on the majority of district students in the creation of a fourth.  He makes an articulate case in his letter to the State Education commissioner.  
The complete letter follows at the jump.

Talking Ed Note: MSV is supportive of charters but questions the zero sum game in expansion with the cost of charters schools not borne by the State but by local taxpayers - well over 90%. Proponents of charters and the Da Vinci charter are invited to submit a guest piece to balance the letter by Superintendent Toback appearing below.

Dr. Mark Toback
Superintendent of Schools

April 25, 2012
Mr. Christopher Cerf
Commissioner of Education
New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Plaza
PO Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Commissioner Cerf:
I appreciate the fact that you made a great effort to reach out to school superintendents during your convocation at Jackson High School in late February. You communicated your concerns about a number of important issues and demonstrated a great awareness of matters important to school leaders. I enjoyed hearing about the ongoing efforts of your new leadership team to complete the task of developing a comprehensive database that will create many new opportunities to analyze student performance information. I have already had a chance to use the software to assess the performance of our elementary schools. I also appreciate your efforts to immediately establish standardized systems for all school districts in calculating high school graduation rates and the academia growth of students.

As a result of your outreach efforts, I feel comfort in communicating serious and legitimate concerns I have regarding the potential formation of a new charter school in Hoboken. I have included compelling information supporting those concerns and I am hopeful you will consider my letter when making a determination about this proposed charter school. As you will see, I am outnumbered in many ways. There are many letters of support included in the application packet for the proposed DaVinci Charter School. Another challenge is the fact that charter applications are being reviewed by a committee of volunteers and many committee members are charter school advocates.