Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla was hired as counsel at the same law firm as the city’s Assistant Corporation Counsel John Allen, a former chief of staff of his, at the end of last year at a salary of $60,000, a spokesman for Bhalla said.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Schenck Price is pleased to welcome Ravi Bhalla, as Counsel. Ravi is well-known as the current mayor of Hoboken,” Schenck Price Smith & King LLP wrote on their website on December 30th.
” … In his legal career, Ravi has developed a reputation as a results-oriented litigator and trial attorney, concentrating in the areas of commercial litigation, white-collar criminal defense, labor and employment, and land use and redevelopment law.”
Neither Bhalla or the city ever publicized the new gig, which came to light this morning thanks to a tweet from former Council-at-Large candidate Paul Presinzano, who unsuccessfully ran on the “Independently Together” slate that opposed Team Bhalla in November.
As mayor, Bhalla earns an annual salary of $116,950, which will increase to $130,000 after the next mayoral race in 2025 since the city council increased certain salary ranges last month, though he has said he doesn’t plan on taking a raise if he runs again.
Rob Horowitz, a spokesman for Bhalla, said that he demonstrated a full-time commitment to the residents of Hoboken during his first term, where he served as of counsel for Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen, P.C., and that trend will continue.
“Over the past four years, Mayor Bhalla has demonstrated that he is a full time, around the clock, mayor who is dedicated to Hoboken and performs his mayoral responsibilities at the highest level and he did so while serving as ‘of counsel’ to a law firm,” Horowitz said.
“This proven track record demonstrates that the mayor puts Hoboken first and that continuing in the very limited of counsel role will have no impact on his more than full time dedication to his duties as mayor.”
He called it “a personal choice” for Bhalla to take on a new role at a new firm, declining to comment further. The mayor’s most recent financial disclosure form from June 15th, 2021 still listed Lavery Selvaggi as a source of income.
Schenck Price, which has offices in Florham Park, Sparta, Paramus and Manhattan, drew the ire of some of Bhalla’s political opponents on the council when it was revealed that Allen took a second job there.
Specifically, Councilwomen Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino sought a probe into Allen, who also recently served as counsel for the city’s Alcohol Beverage Control board, and the firm back in October.
While a spokeswoman indicated that Allen resigned from that role on October 13th to avoid any potential conflicts, Fisher and Giattino filed a complaint with the state Office of Attorney Ethics against Bhalla, Allen, Schenck Price, and Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia on October 28th.
She and Giattino contend that Allen had conflicts since Schenck Price had retained clients that were going to be heard by the ABC board, as well as that at least one owner of Green Rock Tap & Grill donated $2,600 (the max individual donation) to each of the Team Bhalla candidates.
Giattino had also taken aim at Allen back in April for being the “liaison to the mayor for bars and restaurants.”
Today, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, Fisher, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, and Giattino blasted Bhalla for not being transparent about his latest lawyer gig, as well as for delaying and/or blocking public records requests related to Allen and Schenck Price.
“This once again reignites our long standing concern that Mayor Bhalla’s second job with a politically connected law firm will compromise the city’s interests in favor of his own. Of all the law firms in NJ, the mayor chooses the same firm as his former running mate and chief of staff, who is now a city attorney,” they said in a joint statement.
“Mr. Allen may have solicited work for the firm in question, but the administration has blocked access to public records which would prove or disprove this accusation. If there is nothing to hide, then there shouldn’t be any issue with providing access to these records. Hoboken residents deserve to know the truth of who may be influencing the Bhalla Administration.”