Jersey City deputy mayor set to replace director involved in ‘bid rig’ tape lawsuit

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Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil is expected to take over the city Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce from Anthony Cruz: the executive director involved in the “bid rig” tape lawsuit. 

Department of Housing, Economic, Development and Commerce Executive Director is expected to be replaced by Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil in the coming weeks. Cruz photo via cityofjerseycity.com.
Department of Housing, Economic, Development and Commerce Executive Director is expected to be replaced by Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil in the coming weeks. Cruz photo via cityofjerseycity.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Cruz, himself a former deputy mayor under the late Glenn Cunningham, was named to the head of the HEDC in August 2013, about six weeks after Mayor Steven Fulop was sworn in for his first term.

After almost two years of mostly flying under the radar, Cruz made headlines in late 2015 when Dan Wrieden, an employee of Cruz who is openly gay, alleged his boss created a hostile work environment by using vulgarity and homophobic slurs.

While many thought this could lead to Cruz’s ouster, he initially survived the political firestorm, however, the lawsuit ended up getting much more intense during this election cycle.

As the result of the pending litigation, a 13-minute tape recording of Fulop’s then chief of staff, Muhammed Akil, and Shawn “Sully” Thomas Sullivan, at the time a deputy director of the HDEC under Cruz – as well as the leader of the local Democratic party – came to light just eights days before the November 7th municipal allegations.

In the tape recording, Akil and Sullivan appeared to be trying to find a way to circumvent a public bidding process in order for Good Energy to receive an energy consulting contract.

In the recording, Akil infamously said “What I don’t like about this, see, f***ing straight up this is the kind of s*** where motherf***ers go to jail,” Akil says to Sullivan towards the end of the recording.

Perhaps the most remarkable circumstance surrounding the situation was that the recording was accidentally left on Business Administrator Bob Kakoleski’s voicemail after Akil didn’t hang up his phone.

According to sworn court testimony from Kakoleski and Dominick Pandolfo, a former chief of staff for Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Cruz was also involved in trying to steer the bid to Good Energy.

Fulop has mentioned on several occasions that the bid was cancelled and the situation was reported to the “authorities.” No one was been charged with any criminal wrongdoing as of this writing.

While Akil no longer works in city government (though he was paid by Fulop’s election campaign) and Sullivan remains employed under the Department of Public Works, it appears that Cruz will be the first casualty from the tape recording – which made national headlines.

Vigil, a former deputy secretary of state under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), joined the Fulop administration as deputy mayor, with an annual salary of $110,000, in early 2015.

He was tasked with overseeing economic development and real estate, making him a prime candidate to run the HEDC.

According to public records, Cruz earned a salary of $117,624 in 2016.

While city spokeswoman Hannah Peterson acknowledged changes were coming in City Hall ahead of Fulop’s second term, she declined to get into specifics.

“We aren’t going to discuss individuals at this time, but as Mayor Fulop starts his second term he intends on making personnel changes across all departments to better serve Jersey City residents,” she said.

“At this time, no decisions have been made on replacements for any of these positions.”

In a tweet from yesterday morning, Fulop made a statement in a similar vein, noting that he wants to “continue to raise the bar.”

Three sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed to Hudson County View that at least a preliminary agreement was in place for Vigil to succeed Cruz at the HEDC.

It was not immediately clear if Cruz will be leaving City Hall entirely or if he will be transferred to work in another department.

Other city directors that will be replaced in short order are Recreation Director Kevin Williamson, who was hired in November 2015, most recently earning an annual salary of $117,662, and Rev. Reginald McCrae – who was tapped to run the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at a salary of $90,000 in December 2015.

Multiple sources confirmed these two departures as well, while McCrae confirmed his resignation would be effective December 31st in an interview with The Jersey Journal.

Hudson County View first made mention of Cruz and Williamson being replaced during an episode of our live show, which featured Hudson County Chronicles Publisher Bruce Alston, that streamed on our Facebook page yesterday afternoon.