Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chaos and confusion reigns at HHA meeting ending in possible illegal attorney reappointment

Series of votes and confusion on appointing powers leads to questionable 4-3 attorney reappointment

In a chaotic and tumultuous meeting of the Hoboken Housing Authority, confusion on the governing authority to appoint local counsel ended in a first thought deadlock when HHA commissioner Greg Lincoln voted against a contract for the law firm Florio Perricci Steinhardt & Fader.

Much later in the meeting, Lincoln would vote across the board's existing lines to reappoint HHA attorney Charlie Daglian.

The 4-3 vote came with a resurrected motion to reconsider likely acted on illegally with motions by HHA commissioners Eduardo Gonzalez and Jeannie Rodriguez.  In order to execute a legal motion to reconsider, it must be made by a board member who voted in the negative on the matter prior.

Daglian's reappointment had been tabled early in the meeting in an extremely contentious disagreement between Executive Director Carmelo Garcia and Chairman Jake Stuiver.  Garcia would claim an email he obtained from local HUD officials made any vote other than for current board attorney Daglian "criminal and unethical."

A vote later followed with a convoluted and confusing discussion on who held appointing powers, the Executive Director or the HHA's board.

The public portion at the end of the meeting would be interrupted with another vote likely improper to reconsider before the questionable vote reappointing HHA attorney Charlie Daglian.

Greg Lincoln reading a handbook at the meeting earlier on the responsibilities of commissioners would read aloud a section stating the board was the appointing authority.  Attorney Charlie Daglian handed Garica a copy of his contract pointing to a clause he read claiming he held the authority.    

Daglian would answer questions from the commissioners stating Garcia's contract was the guiding federal law and the board fell into line in advice and consent.  Garcia's contract repeatedly requested by Stuiver to view quickly found its way into board attorney Daglian's personal bag.  (The contract has been a mystery for a long time with no board member able to obtain it although Garcia claimed to Stuiver's inquiry copies would be made available.)

Greg Lincoln in the first shocking vote of the night accepted the board attorney's argument and began the decisive vote for Florio by voting no killing any chance of passage.  The Florio appointment failed in a 4-2 vote.  Voting yes: Dave Mello, Jake Stuiver.  Voting no: Greg Lincoln, Judy Burrell, Eduardo Gonzalez and Jeannie Rodriguez.

That unexpected vote outcome didn't end there.

A later vote to reconsider bringing back Daglian's contract would occur twice, once in undoing the earlier successful motion to table. It's unclear if that is legal as the HHA bylaws are not available. Garcia has not provided them to the board and that issue would come up with a complaint from Stuiver on that point.

HHA commissioner Rob Davis who tried unsuccessfully to participate by phone would make a surprise arrival during public portion late in the meeting and yet another vote would take place with a questionable vote to reconsider.  It's a little unclear who made the initial motion but HHA commissioner Eduardo Gonzalez and Jeannie Rodriguez are believed to have put forward the motions.  

Again in another surprise, Greg Lincoln would make the decisive vote in the possibly illegal reappointment in a 4-3 vote.

The vote came in a circus atmosphere with police stationed throughout the room struggling to maintain basic order and decorum throughout.

Here's the first vote where the stunning series of events began with Florio going down 4-2.

Talking Ed Note: Maybe the most ugly, unruly and bizarre meeting ever attended in Hoboken.
Something is most definitely rotten in Denmark.  

Out of the gate a visibly tense Executive Director Carmelo Garcia issued an order that the camera for MSV be moved from six feet to the left of the room to the right side repeatedly claiming the presence of Da Horsey was a "distraction."

Da Horsey made like a donkey and didn't budge.

More on this and the wilting reform votes later.

Correction: The Executive Director told the commissioners voting to approve the Florio resolution was against HUD procedure.  He would describe a vote in favor of that resolution and against his resolution for Charles Daglian "criminal and unethical," not illegal and unethical.

Garcia also stated voting against his selection would make the commissioners "liable."

MSV will post more unedited video from the meeting.

Showdown at the HHA attorney selection hoedown

The buzz on the street is there's a showdown to take action on appointing an attorney to the Hoboken Housing Authority.  It's been a six month war trying to move a relatively simple process to completion.


Executive Director Carmelo Garcia favors the status quo.  Reports are he's been opposing efforts to have an open bid process where multiple choices would become available by setting the mechanisms so that there is no alternative but the status quo.

That's what MSV has been hearing on the grapevine for quite a while.

Finally, after months of a sorely lacking bidding process allowing for other bids to fairly compete, real options may be put to a vote.  It's been pull your own tooth out painful and tonight there will be a vote.

Or will there?

People are expecting some stunt to be pulled to prevent a vote on the bids.  The HHA is the last bastion of the Old Guard and even with a reform oriented board, it's a full out war zone.

At the last meeting, one official attending faced a tirade of curses in the audience from a behemoth of a Beth Mason political operative who claims to be employed as a full time picture hanger in a Hoboken art gallery closed most of the time except during election season.

This battle is going street.  Actually it went street, now it's headed to full out bloody warfare.  Millions of dollars are on the line and from what MSV hears, jail time.

That's a threat the Old Guard is trotting out too.  Lots of green at stake friends, lots of green.
Where will you be when the battle ensues?

Hoboken Housing Authority meeting

Time: 7:30 pm

Place: 221 Jackson

The board of the HHA with ED Carmelo Garica as usual holding the only mic.

Correction: The meeting was planned for 7:00 PM but was noticed for 7:30. MSV apologizes for the error.

MORTe continues suing Hoboken in emergency appeal to stop Doyle appointment

MORTe emergency appeal approved by judge to see full appellate panel

The City Council last night had nothing of substance to compare in the way of the continuing lawsuit by the Mason family with the Russo clan and Tim Occhipinti costing the City of Hoboken big dollars according to one report in an emergency appeal initially approved.

The appeal was ruled stayed by an appellate judge who will likely hear the matter again within two weeks joined by his two colleagues on the court.

According to Hoboken Patch, the City is already facing a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars.

That legal bill is a direct result of a staged political operation last October, what Assignment Judge Peter Bariso called "gamesmanship" by the City Council minority.  The political operation went from the council to the courts late last year after planned absences and abstentions designed to prevent Mayor Zimmer from casting a fifth decisive vote in favor of decades long Hoboken activist Jim Doyle.

Should the first appellate judge's stay be upheld, further appeals by Beth Mason with Russo, Castellano and Occhipinti could tie up the council seat for months with Jim Doyle unable to take his at-large chair even with an affirmative vote and an outstanding legal ruling in favor of the appointment.

It's premature to conclude MORTe's appeal will be upheld in the appellate court.  Their previous appeal was denied.

Beth Mason is excited with the latest delay in the lawsuit against the people of Hoboken.
Both she and her allies lost the case and a vote was confirmed to appoint Jim Doyle to
the City Council but an emergency appeal keeps it in limbo for at least two weeks.

Tim Occhipinti the occupant of the fourth ward council seat saw his pro-developer ties hit a snag when questions were raised about the controversial restaurant in that ward built illegally extending onto City property.  The matter before a court and the Hoboken Zoning Board will now move to conclusive action before the City Council.

The Old Guard council all voted on the ordinance's first reading in favor while most of the reform members agreed to look at the question "on first reading."  A discussion of the ordinance will be held at the next council meeting.

Tim Occhipinti denied he had spoken before the Zoning Board but according to a transcript from an earlier MSV story (below) he had briefly done so and appeared to be looking to support a developer who contributed thousands to his campaign.

Occhipinti actually left a City Council meeting in progress to speak at the Zoning Board meeting where the matter was on the table.  It appears his intent was to speak on behalf of the restaurant developer.  He was stopped by the board's lawyer who refused to allow him to do so.

Councilwoman Jen Giattino who raised the inquiry to Corporation Counsel about any potential conflict involving Occhipinti voting on the matter was told he was cleared based on the facts as presented by Occhipinti to its office.

Council President Peter Cunningham asked Occhipinti if he had in fact received money from the developer.  Occhipinti admitted he had and eagerly showed his desire to vote in favor of the developer and its encroachment on City property.

Councilman Michael Russo then attacked Councilwoman Jen Giattino for asking the Corporation Counsel about any conflict.  He also attacked her for asking questions about a vague resolution on "comprehensive gun control" that was undefined to the point of being pointless.  When Giattino asked for an explanation she was met with angry remarks by Occhipinti who ignoring the brief questions and then petulantly said, "I'm not going to debate this."

As for Councilman Michael Russo, his attack on Concilwoman Jen Giattino during New Business was perhaps nothing more than reflex.  Peter Cammarano, the former mayor and felon imprisoned for trading illegal campaign donations for promises to a developer had once been his campaign manager.

Then again, Michael Russo had his own problems meeting with a federal informant agreeing to bribes as Cammarano but was never charged as any follow up transaction has never been fully vetted with some observers questioning whether Russo himself followed Dwek's example and turned federal informant.

Everyone else at the lunch at the 2009 White House Tavern in Jersey City with FBI informant Solomon Dwek and the third ward councilman had law enforcement action taken against them - except for Michael Russo.


Here's the video late in the meeting where Occhipinti defends taking developer money and clearly will support the restaurant taking City property illegally in a development riddled with zoning violations.  Do you think Occhipinti's conscience may change his vote?
MSV's original exclusive story from March 2012:

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012

Tim Occhipinti received $3,500 from controversial developer of 4th ward building laden with zoning violations on public property


Tim Occhipinti's "pay-to-play" speaking effort last week on behalf of a controversial building riddled with zoning violations in the fourth ward where the City of Hoboken wants to build a Southwest park turns out to involve more money than originally thought.

The actual amount of money Occhipinti accepted from the developer is $3,500.

Based on a disclosure statement submitted by the developer Danny Tattoli, the friend and long time partner of the controversial former Hoboken Construction Office terror Al Arezzo gave Tim Occhipinti money in both 2010 and 2011.

On Saturday, MSV broke the story of Tim Occhipinti accepting $2,000 from the developer at 61 Jackson Street in its rumor column, Grist for the Mill - but the story was not fully confirmed and was posted under "the grist" moniker, with the full amount of the money understated.

In addition to the $2,000 listed by the developer Danny Tattoli in his June 2010 disclosure statement to the Hoboken Construction Office, Tim Occhipinti also received $1,500 in his May 2011 campaign.

The $1,500 appears on the NJ ELEC Occhipinti campaign report on May 10th, City Council Election Day but the first contribution of $2,000 does not appear in any Tim Occhipinti NJ ELEC report.

As Tim Occhipinti was not a declared candidate in June 2010 for the November special election in the fourth ward, the money was clearly intended for that purpose but only a select group among the Old Guard knew of that plan.  It may be possible the donation falls outside of the NJ ELEC reporting requirement, although that's not altogether clear.

The 61 Jackson Street project, intended to be a bar/restaurant currently sits on public property and never obtained proper zoning approved documents from the Hoboken Construction Office.  A wall encroaches on an area the City of Hoboken wishes to see as part of a Southwest Park, a plan Tim Occhipinti has said he supports.

His actions on behalf of the developer and his effort to speak for the retention of the building loaded with zoning violations say something entirely different. 

Tim Occhipinti is on sale at City Hall in more ways than one.  Developers: please swipe here.

At the Hoboken Zoning Board meeting last Tuesday Tim Occhipinti attempted to deliver a prepared speech on behalf of his $3,500 donor and developer friend, Danny Tattoli.

From the Hoboken Zoning Board transcript at last Tuesday's meeting.  
Tim Occhipinti is "the voice" arguing to speak on behalf of the developer Tattoli.

CHAIRMAN FUSCO: Okay. Let's open it up to the public. Any member of the public have a question of Mr. Tattoli? Seeing none, can I have a motion to close the public portion?

COMMISSIONER SMITH: Motion to close the public portion --


A VOICE: Is this just to the witness?

THE REPORTER: I need his name.

MR. GALVIN: Councilmen shouldn't participate at the Zoning Board, sir. 

A VOICE: Well, can I --

MR. GALVIN: No. You shouldn't participate at all. I am sorry.


COMMISSIONER SMITH: I'll make a motion to close the public portion.

COMMISSIONER DE FUSCO: I'll second. Thank you. All in favor?

(Tim Occhipinti continues to interrupt and the stenographer does not record his continued demand to read his speech during the commotion. - Da Horsey) 

MR. GALVIN: Councilman, right?


MR. GALVIN: I am saying it respectfully, but if you are unaware of that, that is the rule. 

CHAIRMAN FUSCO: The public portion is closed.

A VOICE: So no --

THE REPORTER: Can I just have your name?

MR. GALVIN: No. Council people generally are recommended against speaking at Zoning Board matters. 

A VOICE: You and I could have a quick sidebar. five?

MR. GALVIN: Sure, we can, outside.

CHAIRMAN FUSCO: Do you want to take


CHAIRMAN FUSCO: Take five. (Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN FUSCO: Okay. MR. SPECTOR: A decision was reached?

 MR. GALVIN: It was a non decision, just me having a consultation with somebody.

MR. SPECTOR: Fine. The applicant rests, so obviously it is open to the public at this point.

Tim Occhipinti is an eager developer puppet.
He's gleefully looking to vote for a developer's property
encroaching on City land.  His MORTe allies voiced
support for him at the council meeting last night.