Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Grist for the Mill: Donors demanding refunds from Mayor Zimmer get the silent treatment

The numbing concerns about Mayor Dawn Zimmer trampling transparency, a staple principle to her election as mayor is reaching a new high or new lows depending on your point of view.

Back in April her fundraiser with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy with a bevy of Hudson County officials on hand landed a pile of cash, reportedly over $60,000.

Two months later Mayor Zimmer would hold a press conference saying she wouldn't be running for re-election after all and announce the simultaneous endorsement of Councilman Ravi Bhalla. Their secret plan hatched a Reform rebellion as a week later City Council President Jen Giattino announced her mayoral bid.

Residents unhappy with Mayor Zimmer's less than transparent action have been reaching out asking for refunds. Contributors are contacting the mayor demanding a refund after her withdrawal and endorsement of Councilman Ravi Bhalla in one fell swoop. The response?  The aloof Zimmer silent treatment as she ignores the growing numbers in and outside Reform not "on board with the program." Add them to the growing list of residents deemed second class citizens.

Ravi Bhalla the emcee at
the April Dawn Zimmer
fundraiser.
Under NJ election law, Dawn Zimmer isn't required to return the contributions but many inside and outside Reform question the ethical behavior in her not doing so. Think of it as false advertising but caveat emptor. Once a Soprano State politician gets their hands on your loot; you'll not be seeing or hearing from them if you return asking for a refund. Good government, transparency, and this is ethical? Many are saying it's not Hoboken Reform either and their voices are getting louder.

A similar situation occurred in 2009 to contributors one mayoral candidate in Peter Cammarano. He got arrested for taking bribes by the FBI and later scoffed at those asking for money and loans back. Cammarano still lives in the same brownstone before his arrest. There outta be a law.

Some are wondering if Mayor Zimmer has plans for all that money and isn't telling anyone outside her inner sanctum. One NJ organization she must tell is NJ ELEC. Historically, she's filed her reports on a timely basis in July. Not this time. Reformers take pride in filing their campaign reports as a badge of honor after Old Guard pols flout the rules time and time again. No one has seen any ELEC report filed by Carmelo Garcia since his 2015 council campaign. One expects they never will.

But what about Dawn Zimmer? She had been the nominal head of the Reform Movement for years. Where is her ELEC report? She didn't file anything after the April fundraiser and NJ ELEC would have the campaign report available if it had been filed in July. Is she attempting to take the tens of thousands of dollars and pass them off to Councilman Ravi Bhalla?

When you find the bunker where Mayor Zimmer can be cornered taking questions, let Horsey know.

Zimmer's endorsement of two term Councilman Ravi Bhalla hasn't created quite the buzz in political circles hoped. This gristy chewable is about the much sought after support of the neighbor up the hill in State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

The Hudson County powerhouse recently scratched Freeholder Anthony "Stick" Romano off his list of any potential Hoboken mayoral endorsement to the deep chagrin of the Romano campaign. Councilman Mike DeFusco has broken the golden rule as he's the official unnamed Hoboken ambassador to the fiefdom of North Bergen and the Sacco crew. Let's just say the Shinny Penny is not looking very shinny to Senator Brian Stack and he'd prefer to see the copper recycled. Perhaps with a quick and silent burial at sea for all eternity.

Last month Senator Stack held a constituent meeting in the Hoboken Housing Authority as he's done on occasion. One attendee sat among the residents through the meeting waiting for an opportunity. Except he wasn't a HHA resident but a Hoboken City Councilman obviously seeking an endorsement. Ravi Bhalla sat among the HHA residents as Stack allowed the meeting to end.  Bhalla was clearly pining for Stack's political support.

A reliable source says Stack found the passive aggressive behavior annoying and the councilman's attendance among Hoboken's most vulnerable constituency more than a little entitled. He asked Bhalla why he was sitting with HHA residents at their constituent meeting? He didn't wait for much of an answer and quickly followed by telling him, "This isn't the place" and bolted out of the room.

In 2011, then two years into his council term, Ravi Bhalla made an effort to run for statewide office to the NJ Assembly. He hadn't sought approval of Senator Stack prior. Bhalla's Assembly campaign went down in flames. Let's say Senator Stack hasn't forgotten.

As for Ravi Bhalla getting a Brian Stack endorsement in November, add him to the Hoboken mayoral list of candidates under the heading "Man Down."

Update: NJ ELEC shows the last Mayor Zimmer filing as April 7th. There's no filing currently available at NJ ELEC for the period covering the April 17th fundraiser.

Update II September 13: NJ ELEC has corrected an error publishing the missing Dawn Zimmer campaign report dated July 7th. The report shows proceeds of just over $30,000 for the period. Among the contributors several City of Hoboken vendors including the firm of the City auditor for $600 last March.

The City Council had requested to meet with the City Auditor to get details on the $8.35 million liability to Suez, the City of Hoboken water vendor prior to last week's council meeting. The request was turned down. The full NJ ELEC report is below.


Grist for the Mill is MSV's rumor column. Got a tasty carrot for Da Horsey? Send it to smartyjones@me.com. All email is kept confidential and is protected by Da Horsey's proven Reporter Privilege upheld under the NJ Shield Law in Hudson County Superior Court. In farm animals we trust.