Saturday, March 3, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Mayor Bhalla thinks his 2nd job is none of our business

Official release:

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Mayor Bhalla thinks his 2nd job is none of our business

Disbelief.  My initial response when I learned that our new mayor had a 2nd job with a politically connected law firm - again.  Just five days before Election Day he said “if … elected Mayor, I will be working full-time….. severing my employment…” Was he really breaking his election promise this soon?  Especially given his prior employment with a similar firm was such a significant election issue – whether he would resign from his job and be a full-time, conflict-free mayor that ALL Hoboken voters expected and required?  

More questions… Did he say why he took the role?  Did he formally announce or send a nixle alert?  Did he disclose the details of the job?  What type of “Of Counsel” was this?  What kind of commitment would he be making to this 2nd job? How would he be financially incentivized?  And rehashing the many potential conflicts that follow this kind of role and how they might be managed - remember Suez?  The stakes are higher as mayor.

A quick social media search found he barely mentioned this new job and only on his personal Facebook page late Friday 2/16, just before the long weekend / holiday week and almost hidden amidst other newsworthy events.  He described the role as “mentoring young attorneys” although the law firm described it as providing “strategic advice” and “drawing on his broad range of legal expertise.”  

Since then, any further disclosure has had to be pulled from him, a sound bite at a time.  Two weeks on, the public remains mainly unaware of what he will be doing or why he has chosen to do it. 

His selective disclosure to date?

2/17 – in response to adverse media coverage, to select media only:  states salary “well south of $100k”
2/20 – more adverse media coverage and 5 councilmembers publicly expressing concern
2/21 – given no further disclosure, council passes resolution 7-1-1 formally inquiring.
2/23 – to council and select media only: “…Public Release of His Of Counsel Agreement…” disclosing $60k salary, his uncapped earnings potential (15-20% of gross revenues he generates) and states “no requirement that I release this contract”.
2/26 – email to unknown list debating what constitutes a “2nd job”, saying he promised to sever ties ONLY with his prior firm, and informing recipients that HE will be the one who determines if this new role will interfere with his being mayor or not.
2/27 – to council only: responses to inquiries which raise more questions.

He says he is not “practicing law” but if true, he wouldn’t need malpractice insurance or bar dues paid by his firm and he couldn’t accept referral fees legally as only lawyers are permitted.  He is more likely “not engaging in the day-to-day practice of law” as the firm suggests, but that just means he won’t be in a court room.  It doesn't preclude him from actively working to generate revenues for his new firm, and for himself.  Creating potential conflicts.  And taking his attention away from Hoboken. 

Mayor Bhalla, this IS Hoboken’s business. 

Tiffanie Fisher

Hoboken Resident, Taxpayer and Councilwoman