Hoboken council OKs prelim $3.2M HBA budget after learning of ‘shakedown’ of ED


The Hoboken City Council introduced a preliminary $3,195,769.67 budget for the Hoboken Business Alliance after learning of what one council member characterized as a “shakedown” of Executive Director Roxanne Earley.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Earley approached the microphone to answer questions from the governing body, noting that the HBA board recently expanded from eight members to 15 in response to a question from 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher before the conversation took a turn.

“Can I ask if either Councilman Cohen or our business administrator asked you guys to consider John Allen, our assemblyman’s wife, Tara Mullins?” she asked.

“We were asked to consider all of our candidates,” Earley replied.

“I understand, did you get a specific call from either our business administrator or Councilman Phil Cohen about Tara Mullins?” Fisher followed up.

“I got a specific call from Council member Cohen,” Earley answered.

“And did either of them say to you or suggest at all that if Tara Mullins [wasn’t] on the board that our assemblyman may not provide financing for the HBA?” Fisher asked.

“What was intimated to me was that if Tara Mullins was not given a fair shake, it would be difficult for the assemblyman to support the HBA,” Early responded.

Fisher continued that “shakedown” aside, the bigger issue is that Mullins was considered for the board since she has a 10 percent stake at local bar McSwiggans, further claiming that Allen asked the HBA to do an event for “Sunday Fundays” in that area, which ended up happening, without disclosing Mullins’ involvement with the bar.

As a result, she would be voting no for the board since she found the whole situation to be “corrupt” and that Mullins should be removed from the board.

In response, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen said he was not an HBA board member when the vote on Mullins appointment took place.

“That was a decision made by the trustees, they decided who serves on the board, they voted for it, there’s nothing corrupt about that. They decided who should be on that board, they had a process, they had their vote,” he said.

“It’s a volunteer board, she’s serving as a volunteer just like anybody else on any other civic board, there’s no compensation for the people who serve on the board. To insinuate otherwise is wrong, it’s just flat out wrong.”

3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo wanted to get into the nuts and bolts of the spending plan, to which Earley said their budget is seven percent less than last year, but the assessment increase will be three percent.

“So we’re spending less money, but we’re asking the public to give us more?” Russo questioned.

“So, we’re spending down our reserve, and over time, we’re going to run out of that reserve, so we’re working to balance the future together, so we’re also going to be exploring additional revenues grants, sponsorships, etcetera this year in order to bring the budget balanced,” Earley explained.

Russo further stated that despite the HBA asking for more city funding each year, he doesn’t see more services being provided for local businesses.

“I need to understand what the value is for the residents that I represent,” he stated.

Earley replied that the board worked closely with the council designee on the board, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, to reach a happy medium that works for both sides. She also assured Russo that a number of 3rd Ward properties would be seeing a decrease.

Ramos chimed in that the assessment increase was originally at six percent, but after putting their heads together, they were able to cut that in half.

Council President Jen Giattino said she would vote yes on the introduction, but she said if no action was taken on the issues Fisher brought up, she could not support the final budget, which is set for a June 17th public hearing.

The preliminary HBA spending plan was approved 8-1 for introduction, with Fisher the sole no vote.

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  1. Old lawyer trick, don’t address the question you don’t want to answer deflect with irrelevant statements.
    Councilman Phil Cohen is an old lawyer and he admitted he made the call.

  2. Just would like to add that among our group, friends of Ravi, taking care of friends and family is really important. We have a special relationship. Stacking these key business relationships is truly important for our group and for the greater good of our business community and bank accounts. Love ya Tara!

  3. Gotta love that Phil Cohen. Whether it’s making friendly phone calls like this or kashering Afronazis like Patty Waiters, he is always 1000% on the team he’s on.

  4. Councilperson Phil Cohen no matter how he tries to phrase it made it very clear that there was an implied threat you put Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s boy John Allen’s wife on your Board or you may not get funded.
    It makes zero difference that the Board members do not get paid in money, they have political power that is why convicted felon and former Hoboken Mayor bragged to developers that he controlled the Boards they needed to build in Hoboken and they needed to support him.