At least momentarily, a global pandemic was unable to suppress the bad blood between Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, as the two traded shots over the mayor’s law firm representing the NJ GOP in a lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
â€œIt is remarkable to see Mayor Bhalla publicly taking credit in Hoboken for the work the governor and state officials have done in combating COVID-19, while privately his very own law firm seeks to cause irreparable damage to the progress we have made to flatten the curve in New Jersey,” DeFusco said in a statement late this afternoon.
“Itâ€™s disingenuous to publicly rally Hoboken residents to abide by one set of rules while quietly engaging in a frivolous lawsuit for his own financial benefit at the expense of state taxpayers. I have always felt strongly that Hoboken needs a full time Mayor free of these kinds of ethical questions, and this lawsuit only solidifies my position.â€
This morning, the New Jersey Republican State Committee, along with four small business owners, filed suit in Cape May County Superior Court against Gov. Phil Murphy (D) challenging his stay-at-home order, The Record first reported.
â€œInstead of being guided by science, the governor chooses to hide behind it. Heâ€™s closed his eyes and ears and ignored New Jerseyâ€™s cries for common sense,” NJ GOP Chair Doug Steinhardt said.
Specifically, the court filing hopes to force the state to reopen nonessential businesses and the NJ GOP is being represented by Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis and Cohen – the firm where Bhalla has served as of counsel since February 2018.
Bhalla is not serving as a lawyer on the case and the mayor’s office said that he had no role in filing the suit against Murphy, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan.
City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri also went bareknuckle went returning fire at DeFusco, claiming that he’s actively tried to “derail Hoboken emergency responses,” particularly after the mayor closed most nonessential businesses and being the first to shutter bars.
” … When Mayor Bhalla also closed gyms and other non-essential businesses in Hoboken to prevent the spread of the virus, Mike DeFusco purposefully evaded Hobokenâ€™s safety regulations, traveled on public transportation to New York City to work out at an open gym, and then came back to go canvassing door to door in a senior building: potentially jeopardizing the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents,” Chaudhuri said.
Caitlin Mota, a spokeswoman for DeFusco, was willing to stand and trade, calling it “a flagrant violation” for Chaudhuri to be commenting on “the mayor’s private job.”
â€œ … Itâ€™s dishonest to intentionally spread rumors about Councilman DeFuscoâ€™s personal life and absurd to accuse him of contributing to the global health crisis. The fact of the matter is the mayorâ€™s second job at a law firm favored by Republican interests will always be a conflict of interest. Mayor Bhalla either stands for senseless litigation meant to defame the governor’s efforts or the safety protocols he and Councilman DeFusco advocated for but it cannot be both.”
This afternoon at a daily press conference in Trenton, Murphy initially declined to comment on the suit, but added that his administration remains guided by data, science, and facts.
â€œIâ€™m sorry if folks donâ€™t like the definitions, but the fact of the matter is theyâ€™re quite consistent, by the way, in terms of essential/non-essential that has been designated nationally as well,” the governor explained.
Additionally, New Jersey Democratic State Committee spokesman Phil Swibinski came to Murphy’s defense this evening.
” … While New Jerseyans from every political affiliation are rallying behind the governor’s leadership, the state’s incredibly out-of-touch Republican Party is trying to hijack the court system to literally play politics with peoples’ lives,” he said.
“This should tell New Jersey residents everything they need to know about Trenton Republicans â€“ theyâ€™re just like the Trump Washington Republicans, and all they care about is scoring political points, even at the expense of the people of our state.”