By John Heinis/Hudson County View
â€œHoboken residents deserve to know that their elected officials are free of any conflicts and only have their best interests in mind when they make decisions, but Ravi Bhalla has proven again and again that he canâ€™t meet that standard,â€ DeFusco said in a statement.
â€œThis latest example is even more serious than the potential conflict previously exposed related to Suez, because in this case Bhalla actually voted on an issue directly related to his law firmâ€™s client. A long-time elected official and attorney like Bhalla should know better than to expose himself and Hoboken taxpayers to this kind of liability.â€
During the same year the vote was cast, Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, the law firm where Bhalla is a partner, was paid $168,630 by NJ Transit.
DeFusco claims that this is a potential conflict of interest, which he outlines in an October 16th letter sent to the NJ Local Finance Board.
“No local government officer or employee shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he, a member of his immediate family, or a business organization in which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment,” he wrote, citing NJ’s Local Government Ethics Law.
Rob Horowitz, a spokesman for the Bhalla campaign, dismissed the complaint as “a desperate political stunt.”
â€œThis is yet the latest desperate political stunt by Mike DeFusco, who is earning a well deserved reputation as the most negative campaigner in the history of Hoboken. Filing a complaint about a nearly unanimous vote from three years ago, just 3 weeks before election day speaks for itself,” Horowitz said in an email.
“The facts are Councilman Bhalla has never represented NJ Transit and since he is not an equity partner, he did not and does not personally benefit in any way from the firmâ€™s representation of NJ Transit, which are on personal injury cases having nothing to do with Hoboken politics and government.”
In August, DeFusco and Bhalla sparred over the city’s Suez Water contract, with DeFusco making a similar claim: that Bhalla was conflicted from voting since his law firm represented Suez.
Although he denied having a conflict of interest, Bhalla recused himself from the vote on the new Suez contract, which ended up being tabled after Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the city council had a tense exchange in September.
Meanwhile, DeFusco was hit with a complaint alleging he violated Hoboken’s pay-to-play laws yesterday, as Hudson County View first reported.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, an integral part of Council President Jen Giattino’s mayoral campaign, was the one who submitted the complaint to Hoboken’s corporation counsel and city clerk.