A federal court judge in Newark denied the dismissal of a freedom of speech violation lawsuit filed by a political operative against the City of Hoboken after he was ejected from the October 21 city council meeting.
On July 21, Judge Kevin McNulty denied two motions filed by the city to dismiss the complaint, writing that “the same issues of factual interpretation bar dismissal on grounds of qualified immunity.”
In the 11-page ruling, McNulty earlier noted that “qualified immunity issues (such as whether a violation was ‘objectively apparent’ under the circumstances at the time) may often require the kind of factual context that is only available on summary judgement or a trial.”
McNulty also states that although it is not proven that Liebler’s First Amendment rights were violated, “if it happened as plaintiff claims, then a First Amendment violation would have been apparent to a reasonable official in these Council members’ positions.”
David Liebler, who has previously helped the political campaigns of Ruben Ramos, Frank Raia and Beth Mason, began speaking during the public portion of the October 21 meeting about relatively mundane topics such as bike lanes, real estate projects and budgetary issues.
However, things immediately heated up when he referenced an article published hours earlier by PolitickerNJ that claimed that based on hundreds of emails, Stan Grossbard, Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s husband, had played a major role in making decision for the Hoboken Housing Authority.
Hudson County View followed up on the story and revealed three email exchanges, in their entirety, between Grossbard and HHA board members.
Grossbard did make suggestions to the board, but they were not always heeded, evidenced by a March 11, 2013 rough draft resolution that would terminate then-HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia.
Garcia wasn’t terminated until August 4, 2014, where two of the three HHA commissioners Grossbard was communicating with had left the board, and is currently involved in litigation over the situation.
Then-Council President Ravi Bhalla began arguing with Liebler over his remarks, with the latter shouting things like “Stan Grossbard is the unofficial mayor of Hoboken,” before police eventually escorted him out of the chambers.
Charles Gormally, an attorney for Brach Eichler LLC, of Roseland, is representing Liebler in the matter – which was filed in November.
He slammed the city for trying to have the complaint dismissed, taking another shot at Grossbard in the process.
“After forcibly removing our client from the public portion of a City Council meeting, the City now is using taxpayer resources to try to convince the court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging this violation of his First Amendment rights,” he said in a prepared statement.
“By throwing every conceivable legal argument at the wall, the only thing sticking is the tape of the meeting that reveals how this government will even ignore citizens’ constitutional rights in a desperate attempt to hide Grossbard’s involvement in Hoboken Government.”
Gormally previously opposed a group that wanted to introduce a rent control referendum in Hoboken back in 2013 (h/t The Jersey Journal).
A Hoboken spokesman did not return an email seeking comment on Monday, but a pro-Zimmer source with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified, called the judge’s decision “standard” and had little to say about the actual merits of the case.