The Hoboken City Council okayed a resolution asking state and county authorities to investigate a racist campaign flyer that came at the tail end of the 2017 mayoral race.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I can’t support this resolution tonight: I don’t think it solves any problem. I don’t think it helps any investigation and if it were just a neutral statement – ‘let’s transfer this so that we can get to the bottom of this’ – perhaps I would support it, but that’s not what this is,” said 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen.
“This is a resolution that questions the integrity of the Hoboken Police Department and their outstanding investigations unit, suggests that there’s conflicts of interest – that they can’t do an adequate job of investigating this – it’s outrageous to even suggest that, there’s no basis for that.”
He further stated that “he’d love to know who did this” and that they should face justice, also questioning what 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco did with the funds he’d raised to identify suspects from photos released by the Hoboken Police Department.
“This is a joke,” Cohen exclaimed, noting that then-Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla was the one who was accused of being a terrorist, not DeFusco.
The flyer had a picture Bhalla that said “Don’t Let TERRORISM take over our town!” and a paid for line by DeFusco. Both have denounced the flyer and have called for the culprits to be identified and neither has been implicated in the scheme to date.
Cohen told hMag at the time that the flyer was “the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in Hoboken politics.”
This afternoon, DeFusco said that Cohen’s “theatrics” were not only “unprofessional,” but also “insulting.”
“Councilman Cohen’s theatrics last night were unprofessional, disrespectful, and frankly outright insulting. The fact that every other councilperson put politics aside to vote in favor of a proper investigation speaks volumes to Councilman Cohen’s character.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher pointed out that she and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino sponsored the resolution, not DeFusco, and that Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante told her he’d support aid from his counterparts at the state and county level.
She also pointed out that there is now a grand jury investigation into a similar situation in Edison from 2017, which prompted the council majority and Bhalla to ask New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal probe the situation in the Mile Square City.
“All this says is we have two elected officials that both were personally harmed in that election, both of them, Mayor Bhalla has come out and said the harm to his family and people close to him and Mike DeFusco said he’s had harm to his family as well for the perception that he was behind the flyer,” Fisher asserted.
“This resolution is meant to be handed up to the state Attorney General’s Office, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, to step in and help our Hoboken police and Chief Ferrante is okay with that. That have a lot of information that they’ve been able to track down and they want the additional resources of the state.”
She also said that it’s important to open the door for any municipal official, including DeFusco and/or Bhalla, to be investigated by an impartial third party.
Furthermore, Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle said he felt the resolution “was very poorly drafted,” but he still supports seeing this case resolved so would support the measure.
The resolution was approved 7-1, with Cohen voting no and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino absent.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco.