The feud between Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the chair of the local Democratic committee, has escalated over an upcoming meeting to back state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack as the next Democratic county chair.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“At the meeting this coming Monday, both Senator Stack and I will offer remarks regarding both the County Reorganization meeting on June 12, 2018. I also want to remind everyone on this email chain how much time and resources Senator Stack placed into ensuring a victorious election cycle for your Committeeperson campaigns in June 2017,” Bhalla wrote in an email to Democratic committee members Monday morning.
” … It’s critically important for us not to forget this support, and offer our assistance to Senator Stack at this critical juncture of the County’s future leadership.”
The meeting, which is not a formal gathering of the HDC, is an invite-only affair at Carpe Diem on Monday evening.
Bhalla embracing Stack as the next chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization is no surprise, given that he was quick to join Stack and Mayor Steven Fulop in calling for a new county executive to replace four-term incumbent Tom DeGise.
Stack was expected to waltz into the role without any opposition, but now that U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) and state Senator (D-32) Nick Sacco are supporting DeGise’s re-election, whether or not the HCDO chair election is uncontested remains up in the air.
While the email seemed like a fairly standard, enthusiastic call to rally local Democrats around Stack, Bhalla apparently excluded Fisher and 17 other members of the HDC, according to an email from the councilwoman sent out yesterday morning.
“I wish I could say that I am surprised that Mayor Bhalla decided to be so disrespectful to the entire committee and me by excluding 17 of our fellow committee members and myself from meeting with Senator Stack. But I am not. Nor am I ok with it,” Fisher wrote.
“Notwithstanding what he tries to brand himself as, actions speaks much louder than words and Mayor Bhallaâ€™s history of being divisive and selectively excluding people speaks for itself. I could be wrong, but I imagine that this is not the will of Senator Stack, especially in the face of his upcoming election.”
Fisher also noted that she has a sit down meeting scheduled with Stack for later this week (she won’t be attending Monday’s affair) and plans on brining up that “Bhalla has let his own local politics get in the way.”
Adding more fuel to the fire, the other five members of the HDC executive committee: 1st Vice Chair Phil Cohen (who also chaired Bhalla’s mayoral transition team), 2nd VC Nora DeBenedetto, 3rd VC Mitch Fagen, Treasurer Paul Kuehn, Recording Secretary Rachel Hodes and Corresponding Secretary LaTrenda Ross let Fisher have it in a joint email.
“While we, as members of the Executive Committee, have been trying to organize, we are severely limited in our ability to advance the goals of the Committee. Indeed, Tiffanieâ€™s obstructionism runs much deeper than her refusal to call Committee meetings,” they wrote in an email sent from Cohen’s address late last night.
“For example, (1) Tiffanie is unresponsive to inquiries, requests, and offers of help from Executive Board members; (2) Tiffanie has refused to share even the contact information for all Committee members; (3) Tiffanie has refused to initiate the process for making necessary changes to the by-laws, despite requests from Executive Members and Committee Members; and (4) Tiffanie has been unhelpful, and frequently uncooperative, with Executive Board members who have tried to do the work of the Committee.”
The email also said that Fisher’s remarks about the mayor did not reflect the views of the executive committee, nor were they consulted, adding that any committee members left off the email chain were contacted or in the process of being contacted about Monday’s meeting.
Sources with knowledge of the situation said that Cohen would jump at the chance to replace Fisher, who helped run 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s mayoral campaign as HDC chair, a measure Bhalla would certainly support.
However, the logistics of how to oust Fisher, who was elected in June with the support of Bhalla, then-Mayor Dawn Zimmer and many others, as chair are complicated and would likely take several months, sources said.
In a follow up, Fisher apologized for not consulting the executive committee first before criticizing Bhalla and added she remains committed to making the HDC successful.
“I have tried to be supportive of everyoneâ€™s ideas. I have hosted all of our meetings. I did research and provided background on the state congressional races. And have worked collaboratively with members preparing for our event, and providing content via email and social media. And I, like others, contributed to our agendas and our topics we discussed,” she responded.
“I hope that there is in fact a way for us to work together. And I also hope that there is a way to work with Mayor Bhalla. I hope too that you demand from Mayor Bhalla the same that you are demanding from me â€“ to work together collaboratively. I remain committed to making this effort.”
She also admitted that while a formal meeting has not been called since her election because “we were all absorbed in our local elections,” further stating that she is unaware of any inquiries that she has ignored or rejected, but would be open to discussing any scenarios where someone felt slighted.