A former Hoboken Housing Authority employee’s political relation suit, which also alleges racketeering, may be destined for a fall trial after a judge denied a motion to dismiss the case last week.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Through his attorney Louis Zayas, former HHA Maintenance Manager Luis Acevedo says that he openly supported ex-HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, who pushed back against then-HHA Chair Dana Wefer’s attempts to turn the HHA into a “fiefdom” run by then-Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
The complaint, filed on August 3rd, 2016, comes two years after Wefer led the charge to have Garcia fired as the head of the federally funded agency.
His termination came at a special meeting at City Hall that required a heavy police presence, with a number of protestors speaking out against Garcia’s ouster.
Garcia also had Zayas represent him in a suit against the HHA, which ended in a $700,000 settlement for the former state Assemblyman, as Hudson County View first reported.
In the suit, Acevedo claims that Wefer confronted him days after Garcia was fired, in a sequence he took as a threat against his employment.
“I’ve seen you speaking for Carmelo Garcia … it draws some concerns but we’ll leave it at that … I support Dawn Zimmer, but I want to keep politics out of here. I want you to work with us,” the suit alleges Wefer told him on August 8th, 2014.
Through the filing, Acevedo says this behavior continued, with Wefer offering him a promotion in exchange for his political support for Zimmer.
“This attempt constituted official misconduct on behalf of Chairwoman Wefer, and a predicate act in furtherance of a criminal enterprise, by attempting to bribe or induce Acevedo to politically support Mayor Zimmer through the use of a promotion,” Zayas wrote in the suit.
Finally, after months of friction with Wefer and interim HHA Executive Director Bob DiVincent, Acevedo was terminated on November 5th, 2014.
“I know you are Carmelo’s friend and he had helped you out and gave you this job, but I just don’t feel like you can manage a housing authority as large as this size,” DiVincent allegedly told Acevedo while firing him.
Acevedo is suing for trebled, compensable and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees, interest and costs of suit, and any further relief the court deems equitable.
On Friday, a Hudson County Superior Court judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by Wefer.
According to public records, a trial date has been set for October 15th and sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said that option was likely at this time – the HHA is unwilling to pay another six-figure settlement.
In addition to Garcia’s payout, Ravon Anderson, a former deputy director under DiVincent, recently successfully settled a suit with the HHA for $125,000.
Zayas declined to address the case as a whole, saying the suit spoke for itself, but praised the judge’s decision to allow the case to proceed.
“The judge correctly denied the motion to dismiss to allow this case to move forward against the Hoboken Housing Authority and Dana Wefer, allowing them to be held accountable for their actions against Mr. Acevedo,” Zayas said over the phone.
An attorney for Wefer did not return an email seeking comment, while officials for the HHA declined to comment on ongoing litigation.