Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Staring down the boiling vat of Hoboken corruption

Former Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs held a first row seat to the problems Hoboken inherited in its "traditions," development run amok being just one in a just published feature "The pluck of Dawn Zimmer."

Sacs inherited the parking director role from a predecessor convicted of embezzling approximately four million quarters and saw firsthand the controversy of the mayor's actions, first demoting John Corea before seeing him convicted of looting the City in a backdoor operation where quarters would be collected and transported to a mob connected south Jersey firm where the "count" was taken.

Sacs introduced a number of modernized transportation plans for Hoboken including the popular Corner Cars program, now called Hertz Connect and expanding The Hop, a City run shuttle bus system.

As Sacs recounts, not only was the mayor under pressure to breathe continuous life into development plans agreed upon previously in Hoboken, there was constant pressures to continue to permit numerous schemes in parking clearly improper if not outright illegal costing Hoboken in the seven figures.

Equally troubling, the former Hoboken Director retells how those connected to the "Old Guard," a political group feeling entitled to taxpayer largesse in many shapes and forms would brazenly demand a private one on one meetings or just show up to make their demands felt and explain "how it is." Much of their demands were part of unwritten agreements "understood" by those inside and outside of City Hall.

Corruption wasn't the only problem for Ian Sacs in attempting to perform his duties. In one instance, a HOP bus driver abandoned his bus on a downtown street and the vehicle was transported empty by Sacs with the engine running a couple of blocks to the City's municipal garage. The driver arrived and berated Sacs on the walk back to City Hall looking to avoid being written up for his transgression. Once inside City Hall, he took a more physical approach with Sacs calling out to a Hoboken Police Officer for assistance.

Minutes later, Ian Sacs was himself arrested, cuffed and chained to a bench at the Hoboken Police station. The driver left the keys in the ignition of the bus mixing his own, so someone in HPD thought it appropriate to charge Sacs with theft.

While Chief Falco would later walk by and order his shackling removed, Sacs would not walk away unscathed. Immediately upon leaving the police station, a "story" would appear on Hoboken411 with one of its unsavory Beth Mason backed fantasies of Sac's guilt and other local publications followed. When all charges were later thrown out of a neighboring township's court, that story went completely unreported.

The battles Sacs held in City Council are somewhat legendary.  The abuse he suffered at the hands of the Old Guard council were continuous but before his departure, his tone changed and he began fighting back (see below) not just for his division but for Hoboken.

Here Sacs recounts the loss of millions of dollars when the Old Guard council - Beth Mason, Timmy Occhipinti, Michael Russo and Terry Castellano refused to refinance the tax change of the midtown garage with the hospital sale.  The refi would add $50,000 in immediate savings plus more annually for the City with the lower interest rates available.

In the video below, Occhipinti doesn't like the historical facts being told to the public and repeatedly interrupts as Sacs recounts the sabotage costing the City in the area of $4,000,000 in one fell swoop versus normal municipal capital depreciation applications over years.

The Old Guard council however was looking for some "moral" victory having failed to stop the hospital sale and destroy the City's finances. Sabotaging a simple garage refinance after its tax status changed was an opportunity they seized with gusto.

Here Ian Sacs explains that "cost."



An excerpt from the former Director's feature:

It must have come as quite a shock to those who were expecting - or perhaps it is better to say, previously required - to cut a deal.  After all, developers were just playing by rules established long ago.  At first, the brakes applied from the Mayor's office were interpreted by some as preference towards "her people".  But quickly, the consensus within the building community became that Mayor Zimmer was simply "anti-development".  I heard that sentiment third-hand all the way down in Ocean County, so her style of governing – that is, her honest, law-abiding actions - was clearly raising eyebrows across the state.  I was asked on several occasions what it is was she wanted, "What's her get?"  Only a clever few realized the simple truth; they just needed to start following New Jersey redevelopment laws.
There was (and still is) a lot of cleaning up to do in what was as near to a fiefdom of self-governance as one can get in modern day America.  In my role as Director of Transportation and Parking, I was given responsibility over the Parking Utility, an agency with a dark history that hopefully ended with my immediate predecessor being arrested and convicted for theft of $600,000 in quarters.  Mayor Zimmer gave me directions to "close back doors and plug holes".  We did that nearly every day, taking up much more of my time than I had expected.  The first few months were a constant wave of discovery in questionable practices and undocumented relationships.  I was contacted regularly by residents, vendors, and developers looking to meet with me "one on one" to secure continued or new agreements on everything from consultant and maintenance services to parking permits to garage management; those meetings were declined, thank you.
I discovered numerous contracts and informal agreements missing official approvals, undocumented or, at least, set up in such a way as to be easily susceptible to misuse.  For example, in an early audit we revealed and shut off about 160 transponders used to gain monthly access to municipal garages that had been issued to vehicles with little or no records, and certainly without charge.  Why were nearly a quarter-million dollars in annual fees just given away freely?
Read the whole story:



Related: MSV briefly covered the story, "There goes the free parking," on the magically missing transponders.  The net take costing Hoboken predicted in the Talking Ed Note was six figures but in the end, Sacs says the true cost to Hoboken for the "little sum-thin" was seven figures over years.

To his undesired credit, Sacs may be the only Parking Director in the history of Hoboken to ever have a midnight flyer issued against him as he was leaving Hoboken. The attack courtesy of Beth Mason and likely her sordid bottom feeding fish up the road would make one more ridiculous attack on Ian Sacs. The irony being his predecessor was a criminal but the Old Guard council treated the successor like one. Something they never did to the guy responsible for looting millions quarters from Hoboken parking meters.

That MSV feature titled, "No one get out of here alive," a parting Old Guard gift to Sacs for his honest service, courtesy of Beth Mason:

http://www.hobokenhorse.com/2012/09/beth-mason-to-ian-sacs-no-one-gets-out.html

Sacs who first moved his family to Jersey City to escape attention in his Director role now resides far from Old Guard Hoboken style Soprano State corruption with his family in Finland.

Mr. Sacs had a little pluck himself.