Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco and Mayor Ravi Bhalla are again at odds, this time over an ordinance that would prevent any officials from using the Nixle alert system “to promote a political agenda.”
“Misusing taxpayer-funded government resources not only wastes taxpayers’ money, it compromises the integrity of our democracy. Our city government and employees should be exclusively focused on delivering the best, most efficient services possible for our residents, not on political advancement,” DeFusco said in a statement.
“This legislation is essential to begin restoring a sense of accountability in our city government and it will help all residents have confidence that every one of their tax dollars are being used properly and responsibly.”
The measure, co-sponsored by 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, would potentially bar any city employees from using Nixle, a service for residents to receive notifications on major public safety and community events, for political purposes.
If approved, it would also prevent employees from participating in any political activities while on the city time.
In the past, some council members have been critical of Bhalla for using Nixle to take shots at them.
In response, Rob Horowitz, a spokesman for Bhalla, said DeFusco should be spending time on how to address vote-by-mail fraud in light of developer/politico Frank Raia’s conviction last month if he is serious about local ethics reform.
“Mayor Bhalla is open to working with the council on real comprehensive ethics reform that addresses the major political corruption challenges facing our City,” Horowitz began.
“But Councilman DeFusco’s new proposal is a transparent attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Frank Raia, one of his largest political contributors, was just found guilty of a large-scale voter fraud scheme, in which hard cold cash was traded for votes, and that his former campaign manager was at the heart of the scheme. Stamping out voter fraud and ensuring the integrity of elections is the number one ethical issue in Hoboken. Any truly comprehensive proposal must address it.”
DeFusco, who has previously said all previous donations connected to Raia had been returned, hit back by saying that this was just the latest attempt at the mayor to change the subject without addressing the issue at hand.
“The person deflecting attention here is Mayor Bhalla, from the fact that he has habitually misused city resources for political gain as well as the fact that his candidate in the First Ward is actually on the city payroll,” DeFusco spokesman Phil Swibinski stated.
“He’s doing so by bringing up issues that have absolutely nothing to do with this ordinance. Councilman DeFusco is simply trying to protect Hoboken taxpayers and prevent city resources from being misused for politics, and it’s mind boggling that Mayor Bhalla would oppose that.”
According to the Nixle terms of service, “expressing a political or other similar message” is one of several “prohibited communications,” however, it is not clear how or when these guidelines can be enforced.
A representative from Nixle could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The Hoboken City Council meets today at City Hall, 94 Washington St., at 7 p.m.