Tuesday, March 12, 2013

City faces budget peril as Jim Doyle appeal decision expected in May

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE 


The City of Hoboken faces potential sequestration type cuts this spring as the gun to its head on passing the budget will likely require at least one emergency appropriation due to the court maneuvering blocking the legal council appointment of Jim Doyle.

The City budget requires five votes for passage.  Last year it passed on a party line 5-4 vote but the swing vote working with the mayor will be unavailable after MORTe's defeat in Hudson County Superior Court was appealed.

The scheduled hearing with the NJ Appellate Court panel of judges is set for oral argument on May 21st.  Final written argument are due mid-April, meaning an unusual five week period of time separates the two.  The deadline according to sources familiar with the case is firm with no extensions.

The date of the oral hearing means the City will likely face a power play by the Hoboken Sopranos on the council who have four votes and will use the emptied chair of the swing vote under reform to induce chaos.

As one person familiar with the power play said, "The Mason family has probably expended six figures already on this case.  They need to get something for that money.  It means doing harm to the City then pointing the finger at the mayor."

The "get" for MORTe is likely a repeat scenario when the mayor lost temporary support of the council and Councilman Michael Russo showed up at a council meeting with a temporary budget written in pencil on what some think was a napkin.

Thus is the stuff of Hoboken Sopranos legend.

It's not clear what will be the initial "blocking" argument used to vote down the annual budget.  MORTe - (beth Mason, tim Occhipinti, michael Russo and Terry Castellano) previously fought to the death to zero the City surplus out completely but failed in earlier attempts.  They came within an inch in 2011 but the State rejected their submission as it was riddled with mathematical errors and Nino Giacchi was replaced days later by Jen Giattino who voted to pass the budget with a surplus.  The 2013 budget has a lower surplus than the budget prior to Hurricane Sandy, proposed at $2 million.

Tim Occhipinti showed one argument clearly under consideration in his end of day questioning of the municipal employee contract last Saturday (see story below).  Similar to an argument made by Michael Russo early in the year, he asked for the full contract number to appear as a line item in the budget.

There's only one problem: there is no contract and the City has not put in a final figure.  The contract remain in negotiations.

Even if the municipal employee contract is passed, BA Quentin Wiest replied it doesn't have to be entered as a total on one budget line.  As in the case of the agreement with the fire department union he said, the retro pay cost was spread over three years.

Having the cost of the municipal employee contract spread over several years controls cost and is a logical approach in normal municipal accounting.  Logic, however is not the objective here.

Power is.

The Hoboken Sopranos - Michael Russo and Beth Mason back in their salad days in 2011 when they held temporary power in the City Council with the questionable election of Tim Occhipinti.  Their itching to cause more chaos after a manufactured lawsuit to wrest control over reform's swing council seat.

Talking Ed Note: Should the NJ Appellate Court reverses the decision of Assignment Judge Peter Bariso, the  ninth council seat will remain open until the election scheduled in November.  It's not clear if the NJ Appellate court upholding the victory in Hudson County Superior Court means Doyle is sworn in.  The Mason family is likely preparing a third appeal to block the legal appointment.

Mason's expenditure against the people of Hoboken in MORTe's manufactured lawsuit may be a defining moment of her political career, right under the attempt to block the sale of the hospital and bankrupt the City.  Some may put it first considering the widespread harm inflicted by Hurricane Sandy.

If for any reason, Doyle is not seated in May, Hoboken's budget situation will enter into crisis and emergency appropriations will be needed into November.  The resulting chaos and finger pointing by a Mason media blitz would ramp up. The local media has made little mention of Jim Doyle's lawsuit victory and ignored the empty chair in council meetings.