Hoboken councilwomen seeking probe into potential conflicts with ex-ABC attorney & his law firm

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2nd Ward Hoboken Ward Tiffanie Fisher and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino are seeking a probe into potential conflicts with the city’s former Alcohol Beverage Control attorney, who is also assistant corporation counsel, and his law firm.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“I am just curious if the city has any liability with regards to … that the firm that the ABC (alcoholic beverage control) board attorney is employed by also representing liquor license holders in matters before the Hoboken ABC Board,” Giattino asked Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia at Wednesday evening’s counsel meeting.

“I will certainly get you an opinion on that subject,” he responded.

“Please do because I’m very sure that other authorities outside of Hoboken also are looking into that, much appreciated,” added Giattino.

About 15 minutes later, Fisher requested that Aloia find an alternate method to looking into the matter, since now former ABC board counsel John Allen, a former chief of staff to Mayor Ravi Bhalla, worked in corporation counsel’s office.

“We have a situation where we have a lawyer on one side of the negotiating table and his law firm potentially on the other side of the negotiating table around our ABC license,” she said.

” … If it pans out to be true, this is a really big issue and I don’t think that the existing corporation counsel’s office would be appropriate for them to be involved in this at all.”

Allen has been working at the law firm Schenck, Price, Smith & King LLP for about a year, the same company he worked for about six months before entering Hoboken government after coming up short in the council-at-large race on Bhalla’s 2017 ticket.

“I just want to make it real clear that personally, I don’t fell that there’s any major conflict: anything that’s been shown to me and anything that’s been before the city council. I just always worry about getting into these political kind of conversations when it comes to somebody’s professional license,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, also a physical therapist.

Fisher then said that the professional code of conduct for lawyers in New Jersey indicates that they cannot sit on both sides of the table for a public entity.

Just before the meeting concluded around 9:15 p.m., Giattino said that she submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request on October 15th seeking any ABC board applicants being represented by SPSK and has been told she won’t get a response until after the November 2nd municipal elections.

City spokeswoman Marilyn Baer told HCV that Allen resigned as counsel to the ABC Board on October 13th, which paid a $15,000 stipend. He earned $124,500 as assistant corporation counsel last year, according to public records.

“As previously disclosed, Mr. Allen is affiliated with Schenck, Price, Smith & King LLP. Upon learning that a license holder retained an attorney at the firm, Mr. Allen chose to resign instead of simply recusing himself on individual matters pertaining to the license holder,” she explained.

Back in April, Giattino put Allen in her cross hairs for being the “liaison to the mayor for bars and restaurants.”

She and Fisher introduced a resolution in June asking for such a liaison and ABC counsel to be two different people, but the measure was voted down.

“Hoboken’s Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia emailed me October 18 that he had no knowledge of his own employee John Allen’s law firm representing liquor license holders in Hoboken. This can only mean that Hoboken either has no controls in place to manage conflicts like this or that the administration believes this type of behavior is acceptable,” Giattino said today.

“How does Schenk Price knowingly take on clients that go before Hoboken’s ABC Board when on their own website they describe Allen as serving as Board Counsel for that same board? And what does it say for Hoboken when its mayor and corporation counsel, both attorneys, allow this to happen under their watch?,” Fisher added.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Sleazy John Allen. To the shock of no one, a former running mate of Ravi and sleaze extraordinaire. Get it out of Aloia’s hands, we know how that would go. Unreal.

  2. “We have a situation where we have a lawyer on one side of the negotiating table and his law firm potentially on the other side of the negotiating table around our ABC license,” she said.

    Isn’t that exactly why John Allen should and did resign to avoid any potential conflicts? So why are they trying to make it a thing?

    If Councilwoman Giattino wants anyone out who has a potential conflict, where does that leave her? She’s a local real estate agent who is actively shaping and voting on development laws, rent control ordinances and also appoints members to the Zoning Board. According to her Hudson Realty profile, she is a “buyer’s agent, listing agent, property manager and landlord.” That’s four different pathways that she’s been profitting off of Hoboken properties and its residents. She doesn’t recuse herself or abstain from voting. This issue will be x2 if Cheryl Fallick, an agent of Prime Real Estate Group, miraculously gets on the Council.

    • Yeah… not the same. Not even close. Allen and maybe others could lose their law licenses over this. If Giattino or any other elected official tied their vote/influence to getting business (including a future job) they too should be held accountable.

  3. How many ethics “nothing to see here” do Ravi and his mafia need before people accept that there’s something to see here? It’s ok to have supported Dawn and acknowledge that Ravi is shady.

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