MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE
Carmelo Garcia balks at answering to HHA bills for over $400,000 saying, "I need to speak to my PERSONAL attorney."
At Thursday night's Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) meeting, controversial Executive Director Carmelo Garcia stunned the Board of Commissioners refusing to answer to or provide documentation on numerous bills charged to the agency saying - "I need to speak to my personal attorney."
Two firms in question billed the HHA over $400,000 this year and last and were the focus of extensive questions by new Chairwoman Dana Wefer at the last two monthly meetings.
One firm in question, Hauser Bros, Inc. billed the HHA $170,000 from February into May of this year alone, mostly for boiler related repairs after its two year contract expired last December.
The explosive revelation comes on the back of several anti-Semitic remarks by his Assembly aide at the prior HHA meeting who he pays $10,000 and remains on his payroll under his NJ Assembly budget.
All contracts and vendor expenditures are public information as the HHA is a federal agency.
At the HHA meeting Thursday night, newly elected Chairwoman Dana Wefer inquiring on earlier questions expressed grave concerns a number of contracts were not legally procured and billings not properly incurred without prior board approval as required under federal law.
HHA commissioner Dave Mello would join Wefer in repeatedly asking for clarification on billing expenditures but Garcia would state several times - in regards to one of the two vendors in question - Hauser Bros Inc.; he could neither provide the requested information or offer a date certain to do so until he speaks to and has it authorized by his "personal attorney."
In one series of questions and non-answers on the bills for Hauser Bros, Inc. Garcia would expound in what sounded like self-proclaimed victimization for not being able to present the HHA board a contract for approval. At one point, in an exchange with Dave Mello, he spoke to a litany of problems he says were incurred due to the board voting down other items "setting the agency back."
Mello then questioned Garcia if he was suggesting a contract to Hauser Bros, was presented and voted down by the HHA commissioners.
"Whether that one (Hauser Bros.) would be in there, we will have it talked about and have it detailed," Garcia said.
Mello countered asking for Garcia to show any instance of his claimed "obstructionism" that "directly prevented you from presenting to this board a short term contract with Hauser Bros. after their contract terminated...."
Garcia responded, "I will provide through reasons and purposes I have experienced... pertaining to... for instance we went out seven times for general counsel... why has that never been brought up?"
Commissioner Mello rebuked that statement saying, "That contract has been brought before us.." A counsel contract renewal for Charles Daglian presented by Garcia to the board seven times in what many observers marvel is a gross act of insubordination. All the renewal attempts in the end failed, with one rejected by HUD they deemed "legally flawed" severely criticizing Garcia's improper procurement actions in the process.
The tentative remarks by Garcia appeared to suggest he will claim victimization again as he has put forward earlier over recent months in two successive civil lawsuits against the HHA, the mayor and the City of Hoboken among others. Almost all of those claims have been thrown out on a first pass and a final threadbare allegation surrounding free speech and political affiliation faces expulsion with an existing motion before Hudson County Superior Court.
The complete unedited exchange is available below. Garcia oddly begins to refer to himself in the third person as he attempts to offer a limited non-answer for his failure to bring a contract before the board for Hauser Bros, Inc.
This key dialogue in part followed:
Garcia, "...I intend to first consult first with my personal lawyer and when I put that documents together I will get HIS approval to share it..."
Audience member is heard interjecting "Objection!"by one voice followed with "Overruled" by another, then applause as a handful of Carmelitos respond to Garcia repeating he will prepare a report for his personal lawyer prior to releasing any public information to the HHA commissioners on Hauser Bros, Inc.
But in the March HHA meeting, Wefer specifically inquired about the HHA's contract status with Hauser Bros and asked if it was expiring. Garcia replied saying the contract was "expiring" and then he and his CFO, Emil Kotherithara both follow claiming not to know the expiration date. Garcia however, then stated a contract proposal would be brought before the board 30-60 days before its expiration date but then contradicts himself claiming "you can go month to month."
However, the Hauser Bros. contract expired in December last year.
Garcia's statement such large amounts can be billed to the HHA under such circumstances is more than a little suspect with $1,000,000 in total under suspicion in HHA billings. On background, some commissioners question the limited justification for the bills after the fact expressing deep concerns how deep procurement problems may go.
Garcia has been rigidly applying a unilateral approach to his contracted responsibilities responding at various times with indifference or outright insubordination to the federal Hoboken board which holds appointing and terminating powers over his contract. Over months he refused among his many controversies to provide a copy of his own five year HHA board approved contract when requested numerous times by former HHA Chairman Jake Stuiver. (MSV would eventually obtain a copy directly from Trenton via OPRA and published it's generous contract terms back in February 2013.)
Contrary to what Garcia claimed back in March, Hauser Bros, Inc. held a two year contract with the HHA from 2011 through December 2013 when it expired. Garcia failed to bring to the board any information on the expired contract after the March meeting and instead put before the board over $170,000 in 2014 Hauser Bros. bills in its May meeting.
Chairwoman Dana Wefer stated a contracted vendor under federal procurement law can not be executed for three years but apparently in direct violation, Garcia unilaterally extended those expensive terms well into a third year. (See video above.)
The failure to either bring a proposed contract to the board last fall for Hauser Bros, Inc. and the succeeding payments incurred since for almost a half a year later may lead to additional problems between Garcia and the newly reform oriented HHA board and federal oversight agencies. Questions surrounding other vendor billing led to his offering long winded unresponsive answers and unsubstantiated claims that numerous outstanding bills were all emergencies.
Another vendor in question was presented incurring $145,000 in billing to the HHA is Hadad Electrical. Garcia claimed that billing was fine to approve outside of the required procurement process claiming all the work done between November 2013 through May of this year fell under "Hurricane Sandy" emergencies. Since early 2013, Haddad Electrical billed the HHA almost $250,000.
Two offshoots with similar names, Haddad Construction, LLC and Haddad Plumbing & Heating also billed the HHA in the last year: $20,557.25 and $15,064.57 respectively.
An unusually subdued Garcia at times even refused to identify whether Haddad Electrical held approval as State of NJ vendors. When asked if the firm held state approval or alternatively went out to bid as legally required, Garcia would offer long winded gobbly gook answers. Challenged to be responsive to whether Hadad Electrical was an approved State vendor, he insisted he could not offer a simple yes or no answer. Later, he would offer a different explanation saying it all fell under the catch all of "emergencies."
Respective invoices for the the two companies in question were not made available although previously requested about a month ago. Garcia suggested most if not all of the HHA billing records were damaged and lost in Hurricane Sandy but failed to explain why current invoices were not produced at the request of the HHA board in time for the meeting.
Talking Ed Note: It's uncertain what additional problems apply to Hauser Bros. and the HHA. The HHA Chair signs approved bills but there may be legal complications in doing so.
It was a full house Thursday night with Garcia's Assembly aides in attendance including former Hoboken Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Campos, former Hoboken resident Nick Calicchio and Hoboken resident Patricia Waiters. Also present were Vision 20/20 advocates Perry Belfiore the short-lived candidate for Freeholder and Timmy Occhipinti the current occupant of the fourth ward council seat.