Ex-Hoboken health director picks up petitions to run for 1st Ward council seat


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.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

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.”

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  1. Leo Pellegrini with his decades of service has earned the respect of a great many of the parents, seniors and other residents of Hoboken. He will be a formidable candidate for First Ward..

    • If Leo returns those petitions and files to be a candidate in the First Ward, he’s in big trouble. I mean big. This is big and we’ve talked about this, from DC to Hoboken. He’ll be indicted.

      Robert L. Peters

    • Phone lines are burning between DC and the second floor in Hoboken City Hall.
      Leo is facing dire legal consequences if he crosses that line. Nothing easy like the Terror Flier.

    • Ironstate stands behind Leo but Ravi has the party and the party controls the criminal courts here. A DC zoom call concluded they stand behind Ravi and will crush Leo if he dares enter the race.

  2. Leo is a good, honest man who knows how government works, warts and all, and he loves Hoboken. He’ll make a great, truly independent Councilman. The last thing the city needs is another Bhalla rubber stamp sycophant or a rich Republican opportunist.

    I don’t live in the 1st ward but if I did Leo would certainly have my vote.

    • Director Leo Pellegrini has been the caring ever-present face of Hoboken before, during and after the Covid lockdown and the residents of the First Ward will certainly remember that on Election Day.

  3. Looks like there will be a runoff between Rafi and Leo cause Paul will come in last again. He thinks he has the senior vote but far from it and he has no other base.

  4. Leo don’t back down against this corrupt mayor but also don’t split the vote and let Rafi in.

    Join Paul’s team and support him. Your time will come when Paul defeats “imposter babysitter goes to Washington” Emily as the next mayor of Hoboken.

    Think about it.

  5. Not until Bhalla pushed out Leo did we have a huge rat problem. Now we have a invisible Director who lives far away from Hoboken

    We need to bring back HOBOKEN people

    Peluso, Calligy and Leo! None of these green washing liberals who live in Jersey City


  6. Remember Rafi and Ravi, the administration who brought us the rats

    Rafi says he’s his own man… yeah right and I have a bridge to sell you…. better yet a rat trap

    • Where’d you hear he’s going to jail? He hasn’t been charged with anything, hasn’t gotten arrested, hasn’t had a court date, etc. Something may happen later, always a wide range of possibilities, but as of today, still nothing.

    • Years back I remember someone was blogging that VJ, then Zimmer’s COS, was gonna go to jail for forgery over a liquor license application or something like that. Turned out it was all made up BS. Seems like Leo is being defamed the same way by Bhalla’s team. Sad!

        • I’m confused. I heard VJ was the victim of a political smear campaign just like Leo. Pretty similar MO with false claims of criminal wrongdoing that turned out to BS. What does Stephen Marks have to to with it?

          • Did you know that 94 Washington Street has better lawyers and Lobbyists working right here in Hoboken?
            Great one stop place if you need a person to lobby to close 1st street for your bar or help you on 15th street to open a dispensary

            ne stop shopping, just pay your convenience fee at the Mayor’s next big ticket fundraiser at City Bistro

  7. Too bad Room 84 isn’t still around, would be a great classy place to have an elegant fundraiser for Leo.
    Free Jello Shots and scantily clad dancers… Wait staff.

  8. How does Rafi feel about his Sponsor Ravi Bhalla allowing a former a legal counsel to buy a bar in the 1st ward through a spouse’s sweat equity and in kind contributions…. ? If that’s true of course