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Friday, May 23, 2014

BREAKING: HOBOKEN HOUSING AUTHORITY SPECIAL MEETING CALLED TO CONSIDER SPECIAL COUNSEL APPOINTMENT

MILE SQUARE VIEW SPECIAL REPORT



SPECIAL HHA MEETING WILL CONSIDER SPECIAL COUNSEL APPOINTMENT PUTTING THE PROCUREMENT PRACTICES BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CARMELO GARCIA UNDER SCRUTINY


The Hoboken Housing Authority will hold a special meeting next Wednesday evening in City Council Chambers to consider a resolution appointing a Special Counsel to comprehensively review and make recommendations on its procurement practices.

The meeting called by Hoboken Housing Authority Chairwoman Dana Wefer gives the full seven members of the HHA Board of Commissioners the option to appoint attorney Joseph A. Manfredi as a special counsel to investigate the HHA's procurement actions.

Deep concerns were raised at the last May meeting where two vendors were identified as billing the HHA for hundreds of thousands of dollars with no existing contract. 

Controversial HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia's procurement practices are in the spotlight with a Special Counsel up for appointment next Wednesday. A thorough investigation into those actions in the the HHA could follow if the board approves a special counsel. More than troubling questions and answers may follow.

The resolution proposed for passage at the meeting states the HHA Board of Commissioners "desires to have Special Counsel advise... of its legal obligations and options should Special Counsel's review and analysis find that the Procurement Policy, state or federal bidding laws, and/or state or local ethics laws were violated..."

The attorney under consideration in the resolution for Special Counsel appointment is Joseph A. Manfredi who has specific experience on federal procurement policies in federal housing authorities.

Garcia's attorney, Louis Zayas said earlier his client welcomed an investigation if there was any suspicion of wrongdoing.

At the May meeting, when asked to explain the billings into the hundreds of thousands of dollars at the last meeting, HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia declined saying he needed to speak to his "personal lawyer" but then attempted to claim one of the vendors six figure plus billings were sanctioned as "emergencies" and did not require the authorization of the HHA Board of Commissioners.

However, the practice of emergency billings has its own mandated federal process and requires a clear and present danger to residents. Neither of those requirements appear to be satisfied with Garcia's claims presenting huge bills 19 months after Hurricane Sandy.

After the last HHA meeting, MSV discovered the vendors in question both had given Garcia thousands of dollars in political contributions last March. The pay to play actions by Garcia adds another troubling element of concern on his practices within the HHA.

The earlier MSV exclusive investigative report is available here.