Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HHA Chairman: City attorney rules HHA board attorney appointment invalid

HHA Chairman Jake Stuiver announces:


The Hoboken Housing Authority Board of Commissioners' Feb. 7 vote to reappoint Charles Daglian as general counsel has been invalidated based on legal advice provided by the City's Corporation Counsel.

HHA Chairman Jake Stuiver referred the matter to City of Hoboken Corporation Counsel Mellissa Longo on Feb. 11, due to his concerns that (1) Mr. Daglian's representation of the Board in connection with his own contract may have been improper, and (2) that Mr. Daglian permitted a vote to reconsider the initial rejection of Mr. Daglian to be taken in violation of proper procedures. Under New Jersey Local Housing and Redevelopment Law (NJSA 40A:12A-22), housing authority boards are permitted to seek legal guidance from the City's Corporation Counsel: “For such legal services as may be required, a redevelopment agency or housing authority may call upon the chief law officers of the municipality or county.”  Since the issues here involved the holdover board attorney's own potential conflict, it was necessary to obtain the legal opinion from Corporation Counsel as a nonconflicted attorney in accordance with state law.

Ms. Longo responded to the Chairman's inquiry on Feb. 13, stating that due to the conflict created by Mr. Daglian advising the Board in connection with his own contract as well as the failure to follow proper procedures, the reappointment of Daglian was invalid. Ms. Longo advised that Mr. Daglian should not advise the Board in connection with the legal contract and should recuse himself as counsel to the Board during any future consideration of the contract.

“Ms. Longo's legal opinion confirms our suspicions that many aspects of the Feb. 7 Special Meeting did not pass the smell test, and that those Commissioners who have been questioning the soundness, validity and objectivity of Mr. Daglian's advice have been on the right track,” said Chairman Stuiver. “I thank Ms.  Longo for taking the time to address this matter amid her numerous other obligations, and look forward to finding an unconflicted special counsel to advise the Board in what will hopefully be a resolution to the longstanding debate over who can serve the Board as a trustworthy general counsel going forward.”

HHA Commissioner Greg Lincoln, who voted for Mr. Daglian at the Feb. 7 Special Meeting, said he regrets that vote in light of the conflicts and impropriety of Mr. Daglian's conduct, and that he would not vote for him again.

”I voted to appoint Mr. Daglian despite serious reservations.,” said Commissioner Lincoln. “I was concerned about the fact that there was a clear conflict of interest, but I assumed that as an officer of the court, he would have recused himself if it was appropriate. The questionable legal advice he provided the board left me feeling I had little flexibility or choice. In essence, he advised the board that we were legally required by the current procurement policy to reappoint him as legal counsel, which is patently false. “

Commissioner Lincoln added: “Additionally, Director Garcia wrongfully asserted that failing to reappoint Mr. Daglian might even be a criminal act. I now understand that not to be the case, and am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism and integrity that was displayed at the special meeting. I plan to support an effort to amend the HHA procurement policy as soon as possible.”

Charles Daglian (l) appears to be telling HHA Chair Jake Stuiver there's only one choice to make at the previous HHA special meeting where appointing a HHA counsel was the sole item on the agenda.  The City attorney Melissa Longo issued a legal opinion that advocating for your own contract is a conflict and ruled the appointment invalid.

Talking Ed Note: Well as MSV said, there was something rotten in Denmark.  In this case, the HHA too.