Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop weighed in on the recent controversies at the local employment and training program last night, applauding the acting executive director’s work ethic.
“There is a board in place, or will be in place with the consent of the council, that will select an executive director. I just want to talk a little bit about Sudhan. Look: Sudhan works hard, Sudhan is willing to state his opinions and follow through on them – which is an asset that a lot of people don’t have,” Fulop said during an interview at Six26 last night.
“He has convictions and beliefs about whatever’s in his heart, you may agree with him, you may not agree with him, but he’s willing to follow through on those things. And sometimes that may rub people the wrong way but he’s willing to do work, understand the issue, then move forward on that.”
While it at one point appeared that Thomas may be appointed the new JCETP executive director at Wednesday’s meeting, he ended up receiving another 90 days as the unpaid acting executive director instead – after removing himself as a board member.
Thomas, also the board of education president, became acting director after the board voted out former Gov. Jim McGreevey in January and his six-month term was set to expire in the first week of July.
Causing further turmoil, Robert Knapp was appointed as the chairman of the JCEPT board, only to resign from the volunteer post less than a day later.
Additionally, Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson has come out against Thomas leading the agency, exclaiming that a real national search needs to be conducted.
The mayor did not discuss any of those recent developments at great length, though he did say a few words about Thomas and a city spokeswoman claiming that McGreevey misappropriated “millions” at JCETP during his tenure, based on the results of a forensic audit that has been referred to an undisclosed law enforcement agency.
Fulop said that he has not personally seen the audit, which hasn’t been released publicly, but said everything he’s heard about it has been “concerning” and “alarming.”
“I guess once law enforcement finishes whatever they’re doing with that, I understand that’s who it was given to, the process will play out how it plays out and we’ll go from there,” he said on the ongoing process to find a new executive director.
McGreevey has of course denied any wrongdoing, stating about two weeks ago that his firing was political and that Fulop was doing a bait and switch and that the only “serious impropriety” was committed by the mayor.
In response, Fulop said last night that he wasn’t sure what the former governor was talking about.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about: it was an outside accounting firm, that I don’t even know, that was hired – I don’t even know if the board there knows [them] other than it’s a professional firm. They found x-y-z and x-y-z was referred to law enforcement. I mean there’s not more to it than that,” he stated.
“If he did nothing wrong, he shouldn’t be concerned. If it’s what we’ve heard that the facts are, then he should be concerned. That’s it.”
It would appear that McGreevey’s cryptic comment from earlier this month was referencing a Bloomberg report that came out this morning, alleging that Tom Bertoli, a former political consultant for Fulop, is the target of a federal investigation regarding potentially not paying taxes on millions of dollars received from developers.
The story also references potential conflicts of interest regarding the businesses Fulop used to renovate his two properties in Jersey City and Rhode Island, respectively.
The mayor’s office has dismissed the story as “a hit job” that was orchestrated by Charlie Kushner, a real estate developer at odds with Fulop and his administration over a major development in Journal Square that hit a stand still before a lawsuit was filed.
Responding to Fulop, McGreevey said that Thomas has “destroyed JCETP,” causing the community to suffer “and the poor and reentry clients are abandoned.”