Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beth Mason and Old Guard allies vote down legal work against Monarch project!

Fight against Monarch Project loses funding courtesy of Beth Mason

The sleepy summer weather apparently didn't generate a memo to the council tonight as a it took its usual course becoming heavily political with the ninth seat open.  Lots of grandstanding, invective and bitterness from the usual quarters with doses of buffonery.

More complaints to push ahead Vision 20/20 once again with HHA ED Carmelo Garcia (still no plan but splashy t-shirts) and in an unexpected development the firm charged with the ongoing Monarch litigation - Maraziti Falcon Healey as Special Legal Counsel failed in a 4-4 vote when Beth Mason and her Old Guard council members refused to fund the ongoing litigation.

Mason attempted to present another resolution in place of resolution 21 to fund Maraziti but in an attempt to classify it as an amendment, it failed passage.  A lowered amount of 10K (toward noise control work) to the increase of under 300K also failed and on the resolution itself Beth Mason, Michael Russo, Tim Occhipinti and Terry Castellano voted no putting the Monarch litigation in jeopardy.

The ramifications of failing to continue funding the legal fight against the Monarch project isn't clear for the moment. It may depend on funds remaining from the original 150K authorization.  

This political game of not funding ongoing litigation was tried once about a year or so ago before by the Old Guard council members. When a special meeting was called to review each legal case and which ones they did not wish to fund, they refused to go on the record against any of them.

Beth Mason is asking for another meeting to repeat that game.  Why? Politics and election year. It's an invitation to cause more trouble.  

For the moment, it's the Monarch litigation in trouble.

Councilwoman Beth Mason voted down funding for the legal firm representing the City of Hoboken to oppose
the Monarch development.  Her Hoboken Soprano allies joined her in halting the legal funding.

Talking Ed Note: People of the 2nd ward should note once again the Old Guard gamesmanship has now put another Hoboken issue into jeopardy.  The objective is to cut legal funding for other matters but in this case, Mason blew it all up.

Take it up with Beth Mason.  (She'll point the finger but her vote is recorded "no.") 

Update: Council President Peter Cunningham called for a subcommittee and possible emergency council meeting to deal with the fallout for the defunding.  

Under the Administration, the City of Hoboken has seen a number of big successes on the legal front winning well over 90% of its cases.  (Unofficial tally.)

City Council summer blues @ 7:00

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Nothing earth shattering tonight. The ordinance for Pier A repair is back and maybe it will move forward. There's a changed contract amount for the Hoboken Municipal Prosecutor and it's substantially lower than when Mayor Zimmer took office and also lower than the predecessor last year Tracy Zur.  You may have seen her name come up in connection to Beth Mason.

Beth Mason gave her money at lets' say an interesting time while Zur was the Hoboken Municipal prosecutor.  Grafix Avenger has done some outstanding work connecting the dots. (Let's add that Judge Mongiello by all accounts has been outstanding and MSV has seen it both professionally and personally.)  No such pronouncements can be offered about the former municipal prosecutor here.

This is the only council meeting in July.  If you do go and speak tonight, be careful as the ever litigious Beth Mason could make a legal threat against you followed by a civil suit appearing soon after.  It went down EXACTLY that way last July.

No one in the local media apparently thought to ask Beth Mason about her role in civil suits against over a dozen Hoboken residents?

Got corruption?

Here's the agenda.

Monarch battle, legal dust up carve out lines between Mayor Zimmer and Ruben Ramos

A battle is emerging between mayoral candidate rivals in Hoboken with Assemblyman Ruben Ramos exchanging fire in his criticism of Mayor Dawn Zimmer surrounding the City's legal strategy and bills.

Assemblyman Ramos issued a press release covered by the Hudson Reporter and signed by his council slate charging over seven figures spent in legal fees in 2012.  The article references Ramos' comments:

Ramos focused his criticism specifically on lawsuits which have not ended in Zimmer’s favor, including Friday’s decision and a ruling last month regarding the uptown Monarch development. The developers originally promised to build tennis courts for the city but later reneged on the offer and proposed building two luxury condominiums. A judge ruled that the city's suit to force them to stick to their original plan.

Mayor Zimmer via a statement responded:

In 2008 the City’s budget was found to have not included $12 million of undisclosed expenditures resulting in a State takeover of the City’s fiscal affairs.  Since 2008 as the result of my work, as well as the work of Judy Tripodi, the State Fiscal Monitor, the City has an honest, fully funded budget in which one shot revenues are not used to balance the budget. The practice of using one shot revenues to cover recurring expenses has ended in Hoboken.   My Administration, unlike previous Administrations has also been diligent in defending the City’s interests both by fully defending litigations that are brought against it, and initiating litigation when appropriate.   The recently settled URSA litigation is a case in point.    A redeveloper agreement entered into by a prior Administration promised benefits to Hoboken residents that were never fully delivered.  As a result of the City’s effective use of the court system, the City received $1.5 million dollars and one acre of land in NW Hoboken.  Had the City not resorted  to litigation, it would have received nothing.  The benefit of this one litigation far exceeds the entirety of the City’s annual legal costs.    As another example, the City spent $500,000 in legal fees saving Hoboken’s then bankrupt hospital from closure.  This also saved Hoboken taxpayers from a fiscal disaster that nearly resulted in the call of a $52 million bond guarantee that could have bankrupted the City of Hoboken.    Entering into the guarantee cost nothing in terms of the legal expense, saving the City from the disastrous potential consequences of having entered into that guarantee cost over $500,000 in legal fees.

I will always live up to my fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of the City of Hoboken and its residents and will never jeopardize those interests by depriving our residents of proper legal representation.   In fact, over the last 12 months we have won or favorably settled 92 percent of our resolved cases.    The fact that the City has been unsuccessful in a few litigations is not an indication of whether our total legal costs are necessary or appropriate nor is it even an indication as to whether that individual litigation was necessary or appropriate. For example, I do not know whether the City will ultimately succeed in its litigation with regard to the Monarch project, but I do know that using all the tools that we have available to protect the rights of Hoboken residents is the right thing to do.

I will forward the backup information confirming this information.

Best regards,

Mayor Zimmer

The controversial Monarch Project is part of a dispute in Hoboken between
mayoral candidates Ruben Ramos and Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

HHA's Stuiver: 'Carmelo Garcia ignored my calls for a public process on Vision 20/20 last February'

Dear Horsey:
I wish to set the record straight on the lack of transparency regarding the “Vision 20/20” redevelopment/expansion of the Hoboken Housing Authority.
Despite HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia’s belated and wholly unspecific overture to have a public forum on the controversial project, the reality is that when I was board Chairman, I repeatedly urged Mr. Garcia to organize multiple forums involving all community stakeholders to fully inform the public about the plans and solicit feedback and ideas. As recently as Feb. 18, I e-mailed Mr. Garcia the following:
“Director, Let's plan on scheduling a public-input forum of all community stakeholders, map out the feasibility of the municipal permitting process and gauge feedback and approval prospects from the city levels before committing to any next steps. We don't want to put the cart before the horse. In light of recent miscommunication resulting in the need for retroactive permits, it is incumbent upon us to be thorough and meticulous and professionalize our interface with the city and greater community.

Any public statements to the contrary would be presumptuous and premature. Please feel free to contact me if anyone has any questions or concerns.”
Not only did Mr. Garcia defy my instruction, he thoroughly ignored it and plowed ahead with his own gameplan, never responding to me in any way.
While such insubordination was quite typical throughout my chairmanship, the fact that now, after receiving blowback from the City of Hoboken and many city residents, Mr. Garcia is spewing vagaries about public meetings and releasing partial data about the plan, is really rather laughable. It seems our Executive Director really does take the Hoboken citizenry for fools, trying to sell people on the same platitudes and double-talk he used to try to ram this through the board. As I have said from the very beginning, a project of this magnitude cannot be initiated in a vacuum – it has an impact on the entire Hoboken community and should be handled accordingly.
Amid Mr. Garcia’s desperate flailing to get the stakeholder buy-in he failed to seek when it might have made a difference, I think it is important that we take stock of the people who have been most vocal in their advocacy for his fast-track approach. The loudest, most recurring champions of building first and answering questions later include:  Perry Belfiore, Michael and Michele Russo, Timothy Occhipinti, Theresa Castellano, Beth Mason, Ruben Ramos and Eduardo Gonzalez. By my count, these have been the most public faces of advancing this plan as quickly, and with as little information, as possible, through their statements at City Council meetings, HHA meetings, letters to the press, and other forums. This cast of characters is, in my opinion, a rogues gallery of people we can always count on to aggressively push whatever is against the public interest, instead serving private, special interests. The presence of this group on the front lines of any massive disbursement of public funds is, in my opinion, reason alone for people to be wary and demand more information before allowing anything to move forward.

Jake Stuiver
Board of Commissioners
Hoboken Housing Authority

HHA commissioner Jake Stuiver is blowing the whistle again on the insubordination of HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia. This time he outlines his call for a public process on Vision 20/20 back in February ignored by Garcia and questions the "rogues gallery" attempting to push the massive redevelopment project.

Related: This letter is in response to Carmelo Garcia's appearing on Hoboken Patch trumpeting Vision 20/20.