Jersey City Council weighs in on possibility of releasing alleged bid rigging tape

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After being pressed by a public speaker, several members of the Jersey City Council weighed in on the possibility of releasing a tape recording that allegedly has city employees talking about rigging a public bid during last night’s meeting.

“In an unseemly reminder of the Healy Administration shenanigans, Jersey City has been in national headlines: according to the sworn testimony of two career civil service employees – former Chief of Staff, Muhammed Akil, Department Director Anthony Cruz, and city employee Shawn Thomas- schemed to circumvent the proper bidding process by influencing a member of the bid scoring committee to chose a particular consultant, contrary to procedure,” said Civic JC Acting President Barbara Camacho.

“A corroborating discussion of the scheme was captured in a voicemail by Akil left on Kakoleski’s work phone. After hearing the recording and speaking with the employees who objected to interference with the bidding process, Mayor Fulop deemed the conduct described so seriously offensive to the process that he ultimately cancelled the bid.”

The aforementioned story was broke by Politico, who reported that Kakoleski and one of his workers, Dominick Pandolfo – a former chief of staff to Mayor Jerramiah Healy – said in sworn court testimony that Akil and Thomas tried to steer an energy consulting contract.

As Hudson County View reported, Civic JC wasted little time in asking Fulop to release the tape recording, a request that the mayor has not yet acknowledged.

Calling the described behavior of City Hall employees “a far-reaching betrayal of the public trust,” Camacho ultimately asked if any member of the governing body would introduce or support a measure urging Fulop to release the tape.

Ward D Councilman Michael Yun said he was one step ahead of her, explaining that such a resolution is expected to be on the October 25th agenda – 13 days before the municipal elections.

“Yes, actually myself and the Councilman in Ward B, Chris Gadsden and the Councilman in Ward C, Rich Boggiano, as a co-sponsor that asks that [there's] a resolution at [the] city clerk’s office and we expect that at the next council meeting, it will be on the agenda,” said Yun.

Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne said she would be open to approving such a measure, but also expressed a lack of familiarity with the subject and wondered aloud what legal concerns could arise.

“I’m new to this request and everything else, I need to think about it and make sure there’s no legal concerns with any type of employment issues – that would be my only concern on something like this,” she said.

“As long as there’s no employment issues, then I don’t see a problem, but I don’t know. Talk to counsel.”

Meanwhile, Council President Rolando Lavarro and Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson both declined to say much since the tape of part of pending litigation.

The depositions stem from a November 2015 lawsuit filed by city historic preservation officer Daniel Wrieden, alleging his boss, Cruz, created a hostile work environment by using vulgarity and homophobic slurs (Wrieden is openly gay).

Along with Akil and Thomas, Cruz is also accused of trying to steer to the consulting contract to Good Energy.

“I believe that all of this disclosure was involved in litigation and given that the city is still engaged in that litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time. But certainly if the resolution is presented, we’ll take the vote,” explained Lavarro.

“I’m just gonna echo what the council president said: I think this is in litigation and don’t know much about it,” stated Robinson.