Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is still fighting an ethics complaint filed by longtime political opponent Perry Belfiore over seven years ago, vowing to appeal a recent decision made by the state local finance board.Â
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Bhalla, a two-term councilman-at-large before being elected mayor in November, received aÂ notice of violation from the New Jersey Local Finance Board on November 13th, 2017.
” … The Board … concluded that voting in favor of a resolution providing for the continued legal services of Paul Condon, Esq. while he shared a lease agreement with Mr. Condon constitutes a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgement,” wrote LFB Chair Timothy Cunningham.
The letter also states that Bhalla is entitled to an administrative hearing within 30 days of receipt of the notice and the $100 violation has already been waived by the board.
Rob Horowitz, a spokesman for Bhalla, denounced the decision as a “nakedly political decision by the Christie Administration.”
“Mayor Bhalla is appealing this nakedly political decision by the Christie Administration. This complaint has already been dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge on the merits as well as reversed by the Appeals Court back to the Local Finance Board because they made their initial ruling without even a quorum,” he said in an email.
“This was a routine and non-controversial Council vote, which would have passed no matter what Councilman Bhalla did. He voted based on the advice of the City’s Corporation Counsel that there was no conflict. We are confident he will prevail again on appeal and this baseless claim will be finally dismissed once and for all.”
Cunningham is a Christie appointee who is also the director of Local Government Services, a branch of the state Department of Community Affairs.Â Christie’s last day in office was January 16th.
Furthermore, the decision came down six days after Bhalla was elected mayor
Belfiore, a former 5th Ward council candidate and also ex-housing authority commissioner, insists Bhalla never told city officials the whole truth about this matter.
“The City of Hoboken is defending Ravi Bhalla from a lie he told the City of Hoboken. I’m going to insist the council do not approve the city to continue to defend Ravi Bhalla since he was never forthcoming about sharing a lease with Condon,” Belfiore said over the phone.
This complaint all the way back to May 10th 2010, when Belfiore filed a complaint against Bhalla over a February 17th, 2010 unanimous vote by the city council awarding Condon a $29,000 contract for special legal services.
In October 2014, an administrative law judge called the complaint frivolous Â and dismissed it, but the local finance board reinstated the complaint in December of the same year (h/t NJ Advance Media).
Additionally, Belfiore received a $51,000 settlement from the city last year after being escorted out of the October 21st, 2015 council meeting by police.
Bhalla was the council president at the time and urged Belfiore that he could not speak about a private citizen, in this instance Stan Grossbard, former Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s husband, during the public portion of the meeting.
Belfiore did not heed the warning and was ejected from the meeting before his five minutes was up.