Leo Pellegrini, the former director of Hoboken’s Health & Human Services Department, is the latest to pick up petitions to run for the 1st Ward council seat, according to the city clerk’s office.
Pellegrini did not return calls or text messages seeking comment on if he would be running in the non-partisan November 7th contest.
In the 1st Ward, Councilman Mike DeFusco is not seeking re-election and the contest instead currently pits Paul Presinzano against Rent Leveling Board Chair Rafi Cordova – who has the endorsement of Mayor Ravi Bhalla.
According to the clerk’s office, any candidates seeking to run in the 1st Ward, the city’s downtown district, will require verified signatures from 64 registered voters.
Pellegrini, who served in the same post under Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Bhalla, her successor, resigned abruptly in May without much explanation beyond how the responsibilities of the health department would be divvied up.
Adding further initial confusion to the situation was the fact that Zimmer thanked Pellegrini for his service, while Bhalla did not.
The same evening that he resigned, the city council approved a $20,000 contract with the law firm of the first New Jersey Comptroller Matthew Boxer to investigate the circumstances of his departure, as HCV first reported.
At their subsequent meeting, the governing body approved an $85,000 settlement for a vendor who allegedly received a two-year deal from Pellegrini without approval from the administration or city council.
Then towards the end of May, Bhalla declared that the Hoboken City Futbol Club, which Pellegrini was the president of, owed the city $76,000 for reserved field space, prompting the organization to cease operations and pave the way for a new group to run traveling soccer.
Following an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request regarding fees charged to third-party sports clubs in the city between 2019 and 2022, city spokeswoman Marilyn Baer said that the HCFC was charged a higher rate since they did not submit nonprofit paperwork.
“In the instance of Hoboken City Football Club, the entity did not provide documentation that it was a non-profit, so it was invoiced utilizing the for-profit rate for its use of fields,” she said in an email.
“When the Administration became aware of the prior inconsistencies in the charging of fees that you are referencing, following review by the City and outside counsel, this matter was referred to the authorities and there is currently an ongoing investigation.”
The OPRA request did not yield any invoices made out to HCFC during those years mentioned.
Camps sponsored by the New York Red Bulls was invoiced for over $150,000 over that four-year period, while a small local group simply known as Summer Fun was invoiced for just $35, city records show.
According to municipal code, rentals fees for individuals or for profit groups are $125 per hour, cut down to $50/hour for nonprofit organizations.
In his first public appearance at a governmental or political function since leaving his city gig, Pellegrini attended the June 21st council meeting where a $180,000 contract to run recreation soccer was granted in a close 5-4 vote.
After the meeting, Pellegrini expressed concerns about the request for proposals, claiming that the city is paying “three times the amount that originally was paid for soccer.”
He also indicated that he wasn’t going to let accusations from the administration influence his behavior.
“The shots have been taken already, so I’m not concerned about that, I’m working on that behind the scenes, I don’t want to discuss that, but I’m not gonna hide under a rock, either,” he said at the time in the lobby of City Hall.
“If I have something to say, I’m a lifelong resident, I have a lot of accomplishments here in Hoboken, so I’m not gonna hide.”