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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.