Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher is suing the city to nullify a measure approved in December that raised the local union donation limit from $500 to $7,200.
The 10-page complaint, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Friday, alleges that the ordinance was substantially changed by its sponsors just an hour before the vote, without any notice given to the public or a public hearing on the amendments, violating state statute.
“The Amended Ordinance completely changed the previous version that had already passed
on first reading, instead amending the definition of to whom it applied to say:
This definition shall be amended in the following enumerated manner if the following occurs; if the trial court in the matter of Farina v. DeFusco … renders a final decision regarding the enforcement and general enforceability of Sections 20D-6 and -7 of this chapter.”
City Clerk Jimmy Farina filed a complaint against 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco in October 2019 alleging he violated the city’s pay-to-play laws and it has still not reached a conclusion.
Fisher’s lawsuit also points out that the second reading on December 15th initially failed 4-3(1), but passed by the same tally after then-Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco, who didn’t seek re-election to run the city’s division of housing, switched her vote.
3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour (the two sponsors of the measure), and Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle also voted yes.
The move was also universally panned by the 20 or so public speakers who addressed the topic at the meeting.
The court filing also points out that a legal opinion from Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia last month recommended a new vote on the ordinance to avoid legal challenges, though it would remain in effect if it went unchallenged, as HCV first reported.
“Weakening Hoboken’s campaign finance laws goes against the will of Hoboken’s citizenry. On all issues before the City Council, Hoboken residents and members of the public have the right to be heard, and especially one of this importance which they were denied,” Fisher said in a statement.
” … In my humble opinion, this is a great example of what that conflict of interest looks like – selective application of the law to favor Team Bhalla at the expense of Hoboken residents,” she added regarding Aloia’s decision to not halt the vote on December 15th.
A city spokeswoman said they do not comment on pending litigation, while Fisher’s attorney in the matter, Scott Salmon, did not return an email seeking comment.