First Grossbard emails regarding HHA contracts of Garcia, counsel revealed

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With the November 3 Hoboken City Council races just 11 days away, Hudson County View has obtained copies of three email exchanges from Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s husband addressed to members of the city’s housing authority from early 2013. 

Carmelo Garcia hosting a rally before a Hoboken Housing Authority meeting where he was terminated from his post as executive director on August 4, 2014.
Carmelo Garcia hosting a rally before a Hoboken Housing Authority meeting where he was terminated from his post as executive director on August 4, 2014.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

 

Email exchange 1

In a February 26, 2013 email from Stan Grossbard, Zimmer’s husband, sent to HHA commissioners Greg Lincoln, David Mello and Jake Stuiver – with the latter serving as the board chair at the time – says, in part, that:

“Carmelo told Dawn [Zimmer] that HUD’s [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] chief lawyer  was going to ‘rule’ that the board had delegated appointment authority to the ED [executive director] via contract.”

Then-HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, now an outgoing Assemblyman seeking the council seat in the 6th Ward on November 3, had just successfully re-appointed Charles Daglian (h/t Hoboken Patch) as counsel to the agency despite some friction between board members.

However, HUD called the appointment “legally flawed” after ruling that the director does not have sole appointing power.

The in-house fighting would continue on for months until the board gave up on trying to establish a new counsel contract. A new one wasn’t established until Secaucus firm Fitzpatrick and Waterman was appointed in February of this year.

“I suspect that while Carmelo is ignoring other parts of the guidance we will receive like HUD’s lack of jurisdiction over corporate governance issues, but indeed HUD is almost certain to say that the contract as written clearly delegates appointment authority because it indeed does,” Grossbard, who is a lawyer that does not currently engage in the practice of law, wrote in the same email.

Grossbard then theorizes that there are only 3 ways to resolve the situation: accept Garcia as the sole appointing authority, negotiate a new procurement policy with Garcia or “vote to terminate the contract and give the 120 days notice, and then proceed to adopt a new procurement process acceptable to the Board [sic].”

He strongly advocates for terminating the contract: “unless and until you move to terminate, Carmelo has all the leverage, and he will never believe you actually are willing to terminate unless and until you actually do it.”

Grossbard also says that Garcia should not be fired, but he should be drafted a new contract with salary increases and paid time off more consistent with other authorities in the state.

In the event Garcia does not agree to renegotiate, Grossbard recommends to “conduct a search and hire someone else.”

Email1a

Email1b

Email1c

 

Email exchange 2

In a much shorter email exchange between Stuiver and Grossbard on March 7, 2013, after HUD had spoken out against Daglian’s new contract, Grossbard tells the HHA chair it’s time to stand tall.

“Not worthy of a response – just terminate his contract and move on. Without that fact on the ground (and possibly even with it) CG will just keep spouting his BS from his bizarre imaginary universe,” Grossbard said.

“He thinks the HUD letter is just another thing to BS away and unless we create an inescapable new reality he will succeed since HUD will take no action beyond this letter.”

He also suggests looking into a Rice notice, which is typically provided to an employee prior to discussion of their employment status, “as soon as possible.”

The board chair notes that “technically” the person to ask would be Joe Garcia, of the Secaucus firm Chasan, Leyner and Lamparello, since he serves as  labor counsel to the board.

“It may seem like a fine distinction and Joe is probably fully capable of answering but this is an employment law question and the expertises are different.”

Grossbard further advises Stuiver to consult with “Melissa” on the matter since she is an employment lawyer. Corporation counsel for the City of Hoboken is (and was at the time) Melissa Longo. He adds that “I like Joe but I’m not sure I trust him 100% to keep completely confidential.”

Email2

 

Email exchange 3

In an email dated March 11, 2013 from Grossbard sent to the three aforementioned HHA commissioners, is a suggested resolution to terminate Garcia.

Email3

The “suggested resolution” was never voted on by the board and Garcia was not terminated until August 4, 2014 at a chaotic meeting where Stuiver and Lincoln had left the board months ago. Dana Wefer was serving as the board chair.

 

Perspective

Before Garcia was ousted from the board, he and Wefer had routinely gone head-to-head over the HHA’s procurement practices and legal compliance.

About 11 months ago, Garcia filed a lawsuit against Wefer, Zimmer, Grossbard, Mello, Stuiver, the city of Hoboken and the Housing Authority alleging that they all participated in a conspiracy to have him fired, which was in itself a breach of contract.

Then in December 2014, an attorney for Zimmer and the housing authority asked Louis Zayas, Garcia’s attorney, to withdraw the “frivolous” lawsuit, which he felt was way too similar to the outgoing Assemblyman’s infamous “ethnic cleansing” suit which was dismissed without prejudice in December.

Garcia’s lawsuit remains in Hudson County Superior Court and the discovery process is still pending completion.

Speaking on the emails as a whole, where sources say hundreds may be forthcoming, Garcia said he felt “vindicated” by the latest turn of events.

“It’s a vindication that supports my original claim, in that Zimmer and her husband were out to get me as part of retaliation and discrimination for not going along with their policies and their requests,” he told Hudson County View over the phone.

“It’s a shame that they would hurt the residents of the housing authority, my family and myself in the process.”

A pro Zimmer source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, argued that board members sought out Grossbard’s help since they were “attempting to navigate some challenging issues with the handicap of having board counsel being in the pocket of the ED.”

The source also referred to Grossbard as “a sharp legal mind who many believed to be on board with good public policy,” and that there is nothing improper about anyone, including the mayor’s husband, giving advice to board members.

Lincoln did not return an email seeking comment, Mello did not return a call seeking comment and both Stuiver and Grossbard declined to comment.

 

Editor’s Note: The portions of the emails that are underlined were not emphasized by Hudson County View. They were like that when we received them. 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Was it in any way illegal for Mr Grossbard to give advice to these board members? I’m guessing no.

    Does this in any way change the fact that Mr Garcia did a terrible job while head of the HHA? I.E. The misspent generators, the giving no bid contracts to people who donated to his campaigns, questionable purchases to fix elevators at a price that should have made these elevators gold plated, the audit of the HHA that found all sorts of issues? I’m guessing no it doesn’t change anything

    Garcia was awful at his job and the HHA is better off without him. And the 6th ward sure as heck doesn’t need him either

    • Stan Grossbard is a PUBLIC figure, he has been out there and behind the scenes for years.
      Advising on personal matters is highly problematic especially since Grossbard was one day meeting with Garcia and a few weeks later trying to fire him. Did he not like what he heard at his lunch with the greaseball?
      Regular citizens don’t get lunch with A State Senator like Bernard Kenny.
      The Commissioners and 1 Council member were acting on Grosssbards advice.
      All of them were appointees through Team Zimmer’s Mayor or Council Running mates.
      You really think they would have felt they could ignore the control freak Stan?
      He must really have little respect for his wife if he feels the need to control her as Mayor.
      What throwback !

      • “What a throwback.” Nice try. You guys can’t give Zimmer credit for whipping your cotton candy a$$es repeatedly so you have to resort to saying her husband must be behind all her success. No way you lost to a woman, right?

        Oh we definitely have a throwback here, al right. It’s you. Go back to the 1950s. Take Sullivan with you.

      • How is it problematic? Is it illegal in any way? What law could have been broken? Very curious to hear

        Commisioners make their own decisions as adults incorporating advice from wherever they want. I bet Carmelo supporters were advising the board he was great. What about their advice?

        The commissioners are also appointed by the city council so look to them

  2. was it illegal for belfiore and liebler to express their political opinions? several cops removed them from a meeting for it. are you going to address that too? not giving an answer, more asking the question. i wonder if other press will look into that.

    • My guess is that it is unwise for the city council to have citizens come up and inject themselves into discussions around discovery motions in a lawsuit the city is defending itself in. If the 2 gentleman want to post online, scream from a rooftop, or stop people on the street, then go ahead, say whatever you want at your own risk.

      But to have those comments in a forum the city runs broadcast for the world to see may incur some liability on the city’s part.

      • NMCP, that is the issue. But the usual folks don’t want to hear it. The city providing a forum for commenting on ongoing litigation in which the city itself is a litigant and permitting commentary on a private citizen who is not a member of a political body or board is just not going to happen.

        People can quibble over his public status. But it isn’t the city council’s prerogative to wing it in the moment and find out later that they never should have done so when the city gets sued yet again. Ironically the same people who are clamoring for “free speech” now would be criticizing the council for stupidly inviting a new lawsuit by standing idly by while current litigation and a private citizen were discussed in a meeting under their control.

        Can’t win with the critics. You have to just do what you think is right in the moment.

        It would probably help if corporation counsel offered some clarifying statement. But for those who made up their mind long ago and don’t really listen to anyone anymore, it won’t make a difference. It would only be for those who make decisions based on inputs rather than fixed animosities.

        As a campaign trick releasing discovery was butt-stupid. So many people have little knowledge of candidate Garcia or the fact that he was fired. So this stunt serves the following purposes.

        – It tells people who didn’t know already that he was fired from a $170k job.
        – It tells them that he believes there were extenuating circumstances to his firing.
        – It tells them that he holds the guidelines for handling privileged information, in this case discovery documents, in extremely low regard.

        Pretty dumb. It’s like telling people who didn’t know you had a DUI that you had a DUI but you weren’t as drunk as the cops said you were.

        How’s that for a campaign slogan and signage?

        “Carmelo Garcia – not as drunk as you thought.”

  3. So Garcia just wrecked not only the last chance of a failing council campaign but his own ethnic cleansing lawsuit in one shot. Lovely.

    If anyone’s advice got Garcia terminated, then why didn’t it happen in March 2013? It didn’t happen until Garcia’s true incompetence, negligence and arrogance in the agency revealed itself later.

    Then he got his contract and his ass canned.

    Excellent reporting here!!

  4. What a joke. Pay attention: the reason Garcia was fired is because he did a lousy job and had LOTS of questionable dealings with vendors and others. The only thing these emails reinforce is how bad an HHA exec director Carmelo was.

    As a Hoboken taxpayer, I am very glad the mayor’s husband told the HHA board what most city residents already knew and agreed with.

  5. All straw men comments – no surprise here. Many lies of the admin being purported – One lie many lies! Whoever is the Mayor would love to spend our money skirting more laws.

  6. Enough. Why is so hard to find more Hispanic leaders in Hudson County that we can be proud of at least not be embarrassed ?
    I can now understand why Mayor Stack did not ask this man to stay on in the Assembly.

  7. Where are Carmelo Garcia’s Election reports detailing who has donated to his campaign and where expenditures have been made? Is it true he is the only one who has not filed?

    I hope Hudson County View looks into this and posts a story. The other terrible press i this town won’t care

Comments are closed.