The Hoboken City Council voted in a new regulation at Wednesday evening’s meeting that would ban campaigning and/or politicking while on city time, as well as barring public officials from using the city’s Nixle alert system to promote a political agenda.
“I’m thankful that the majority of my Council colleagues supported this common sense proposal to protect Hoboken taxpayers and prevent the misuse of city resources for political gain, but I find it mystifying that Council members Doyle and Jabbour voted against it,” said 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who sponsored the measure, said in a statement.
“Hoboken residents deserve to know that city employees are spending their time doing the peoples’ work, not advancing their own political interests. This ordinance should have passed unanimously, and I find it troubling that anyone elected to represent our community would refuse to support it and instead act as an enabler for the chronic misuse of taxpayer resources that has plagued so many cities across our state for far too long.”
Similar to last month when DeFusco and Mayor Ravi Bhalla sparred over the actual impact of the ordinance, Team Bhalla spokesman Rob Horowitz said that DeFusco and the rest of the council should focus on ethics legislation that addresses voter fraud.
“Councilman DeFusco’s ethics ordinance remains a transparent attempt to deflect attention from the fact that Frank Raia, one of his largest political contributors, was found guilty of a large-scale voter fraud scheme, in which hard cold cash was traded for votes, and that his former campaign manager was at the heart of the scheme,” Horowitz said in an email.
“Councilman Doyle and Councilwomen Jabbour were open to working on a comprehensive proposal as DeFusco falsely advertised his to be— not engaging in a symbolic exercise. Stamping out voter fraud and ensuring the integrity of elections is the number one ethical issue in Hoboken. Any truly comprehensive proposal must address it.”
Migdalia Pagan-Milano is challenging DeFusco in the 1st Ward council race this fall and previously targeted him for accepting $9,400 in contributions from Raia the day after he was convicted of vote-by-mail fraud in federal court.
DeFusco campaign spokeswoman Caitlin Mota intimated that Horowitz continues to deflect on the issue because Pagan-Milano works at City Hall and is unwilling to support reforms such as the one put forth by her opponent.
“Instead of constantly rehashing his team’s only cheap political talking point, perhaps Mr. Horowitz should reveal whether or not his First Ward candidate supports Councilman DeFusco’s common sense ethics reform plan,” she stated.
“As the mayor’s political aide and a council candidate at the same time, there is a serious risk for misuse of taxpayer time and resources. Hoboken residents deserve peace of mind knowing their tax dollars are being used for essential city functions rather than political gain and that’s exactly what this ordinance does.”
While the measure passed easily, 7-2, Councilwoman-at-Large stood by her no vote in a statement issued this evening.
“Councilman Defusco’s alleged ‘ethics reform proposals’ and his attacks on my integrity are both without substance. If Councilman DeFusco was as serious about real, substantive ethics reform as he is about putting out press releases attacking others, then we may be able to achieve real reform,” she said.
“I stand by my record on reform and ethics, and believe the councilman’s attacks are one of the many reasons we need new, earnest public servants on the city council who put people before politics.”
Meanwhile, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the co-sponsor of the local legislation, doubled down on the “common sense policy” the council adopted on Wednesday.
“The ethics reform legislation I cosponsored is not only common sense policy, but also necessary to protect Hoboken taxpayers. We have repeatedly seen the mayor’s spokesman and former campaign manager, Vijay Chaudhuri, abuse his position by issuing politically motivated messages on Nixle and by making defamatory statements in his official governmental role,” she said in another separate statement on the issue.
“Misusing public property for personal gain is a violation of law and ethical standards. Hoboken residents deserve better and the legislation approved by the city council is a step towards holding all those accountable who misuse city resources.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comments from Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher.