Former District 31 Assembly candidate Matt Kopko put a failed $15 million Harbor Station South project on the center stage at the Bayonne City Council meeting Wednesday night.
Kopko, a Republican, alleged that Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), his Democratic rival, had a clear conflict of interest in representing developer Kate Howard LTD in a deal with the city that was scrapped back in April. Both Kopko and Chiaravalloti are attorneys.
To begin, Kopko wanted a recap of how the project was included into the first draft of the cityâ€™s 2016 budget. Bayonne Chief Financial Officer Terrence Malloy and Business Administrator Joe DeMarco essentially said that everything about the situation was standard procedure.
Kopko later wondered why attorneys would be reviewing Bryant vs. Atlantic City, a case about when and how developers are allowed to walk away from deals, back in September 2015 if the Kate Howard LTD deal was not nixed until April 2016.
When asked how committed Kate Howard LTD was to the project, DeMarco estimated that the developer spent anywhere between $500,000 to $750,000 on things such as surveys, engineering and geo-tech.
Later, Kopko exclaimed that the whole scenario reeked of honest services fraud and Coffey said he hasnâ€™t looked into such a claim.
However, the city attorney clarified that unfortunate circumstances pertaining to deals with the former Military Ocean Terminal have been ongoing since 1990.
Kopko refused to believe that no one knew the deal was going to collapse before April 2016, telling DeMarco he should be prepared for litigation as a result of this matter.
As of this report, no formal complaints have been filed regarding the failed Kate Howard LTD deal and Chiaravalloti decline to comment.
Hudson County View first reported in June that Chiaravalloti and the Davis administration were ultimately working towards building a ferry terminal at the former MOT.
At this time, Chiaravalloti revealed that Weiner Lesniak LLP, his law firm at the time, represented Kate Howard LTD. Invoices obtained from an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request confirmed that he played a role in the project.
Wednesday’s council meeting was primarily a budget hearing, where a $135.5 million budget was approved. The budget comes with a 2.27 percent tax increase, which the city predicted back in July. The percentage comes out to about a $218 annual tax increase for the average household.
In order to compensate for the $15 million hole in the budget that resulted from the failed Kate Howard LTD project, the city council moved forward with a $27.9 million deal with an out-of-state securities firm.