In light of a Bloomberg report that alleges Tom Bertoli, a former political consultant for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, is under federal investigation for accepting payments from developers, Ward E Councilman James Solomon says it’s time to fix local ethics rules.
“While there are no accusations of impropriety in this article, the close relationships between the Mayor, his political advisor, real estate developers, and corporations doing business with Jersey City raise serious questions. It is my hope that the people’s trust was not violated,” Solomon said in a statement.
“Hope, however, is not a plan. I will immediately work on legislation to strengthen ethics rules governing and to mandate more transparency around politicians’ private business dealings with entities who stand to benefit from public policy decisions.”
The councilman said that such legislation would “enshrine the wisdom” of late Congressman John Dingell who wrote “In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them.”
According to Bloomberg, a grand jury has been convened to hear evidence about Bertoli’s dealing withs builders and developers, specifically regarding failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars he received from developers over the course of the past decade.
Bertoli, who has worked on political campaigns throughout the state, was a part of Fulop’s successful council run in 2005, as well as being elected mayor in 2013.
In response to Solomon, city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said that the mayor has been “nothing but transparent” and that Bloomberg was unable to produce any significant findings.
“Mayor Fulop has been nothing but transparent throughout this entire process and welcomes any ideas Councilman Solomon has to work together to improve public trust for the betterment of the City. In this case, despite a determined three-month effort to find impropriety on the part of the Mayor and his wife, Bloomberg was not able produce any because there is none to report,” she said.
“Tucked within paragraphs of shameless innuendo attributed to anonymous sources, Bloomberg had to acknowledge the truth that neither the Mayor nor his wife Jaclyn have ever been accused of any wrongdoing, that the inquiry discussed in the story is not directed at the mayor or his family, and that the mayor scrupulously sought ethical guidance and recused himself from any city dealings with Mack-Cali. But that’s not the story Bloomberg Businessweek and the instigator of its story – convicted felon Charles Kushner – wanted to peddle. Shame on them.”
She concluded that the mayor proud of his service and record and that he’ll work with whoever “whoever wants to join in city government to strengthen public trust.”
The story also contends that Fulop may have potential conflicts of interest related to the renovations of his two properties, one in Jersey City and one Rhode Island.
Charlie Kushner, a potential witness in the Bertoli case according to Bloomberg, is the father of President Donald Trump advisor Jared Kushner who served 14 months in the early 2000s for a slew of charges that included illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.
Kushner Companies is currently ensnared in a legal battle with Jersey City over a cancelled tax abatement for a real estate project in Journal Square, which began being litigated after the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency said the company violated their agreement last year.
“It’s blatantly obvious Mr. Kushner is out to damage the mayor’s reputation by pushing a negative story about the mayor because the mayor won’t approve a tax abatement,” Wallace-Scalcione added.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.