Nearly 3 weeks later, Hoboken mayor, council members still brawling over new ethics law

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While it has been 19 days since the Hoboken City Council passed a measure banning campaigning and politicking while on city time, members of the governing body and Mayor Ravi Bhalla are still slugging it out over the recent legislation.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“The Mayor and his administration have repeatedly misused taxpayer resources to advance their own political agendas,” 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.

“Politics should never be operating out of City Hall or influencing the decisions being made that affect Hoboken residents. It’s alarming, though not surprising, that Mayor Bhalla would intentionally fail to put his signature on a piece of common sense legislation that bars city employees from performing political activities during business hours on the taxpayers’ dime.”

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the other sponsor, also questioned why the mayor didn’t sign the ordinance into law, despite it passing by a definitive 6-2 vote on August 7th.

“I am proud to have co-sponsored this important piece of policy to protect the integrity of city resources funded by taxpayer dollars,” Fisher added.

“The Mayor seems to have been caught between a rock and a hard place: support good ethics laws or veto good ethics laws and support his Council allies who voted no. So he chose the ‘no action’ approach, allowing the ordinance to become law without his signature.”

The local legislation has been a hot button issue for Hoboken officials since it was introduced in July, when it was first noted that Nixle alerts could not be used for political purposes.

However, according to city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri, the mayor did not sign the ordinance based upon the advice of corporation counsel.

“The City’s Corporation Counsel advised Mayor Bhalla a portion of the ordinance pertaining to the prohibition on the Mayor speaking out on a ballot question, while permitting the Councilmembers to do so, is unlawful. Given this opinion, both the Corporation Counsel as well as Mayor Bhalla did not sign the ordinance,” he said.

“Unfortunately, Councilmembers DeFusco and Fisher are once again stooping to a new low in searching for a problem that does not exist. Instead of launching their usual political attacks at the Mayor, they should work toward real ethics reform which includes addressing the rampant vote-buying brought to light through the corruption trial of Frank Raia, one of DeFusco’s largest political donors.”

According to a copy of the legislation, the city council is allowed to support or oppose a ballot question as long as any required meeting notice includes the title of the ballot referendum and a public speaking portion is permitted.

Fisher said that Chaudhuri’s response “is exactly the kind of line-crossing that this ordinance is meant to stop,” insisting that “petty politics” is his “tool of choice.”

Relishing at the chance to return fire yet again, the city spokesman answered that it’s typical that Fisher and DeFusco would cause the city to waste resources “on a manufactured crisis.”

Furthermore, Council members-at-Large James Doyle and Emily Jabbour once again stood by their no votes, referring to the ordinance as “sophomoric political grandstanding” during an election cycle.

“Simplistically, we voted against ‘ethics reform’; to an informed member of the electorate, we voted against not merely mean-spirited vindictiveness, but unlawful mean-spirited vindictiveness,” they said in a joint statement.

If all that isn’t enough to satisfy your unquenchable appetite for Hoboken political infighting, Michael Watson, a Democratic committeeman in the 1st Ward, filed an ethics complaint with the state Department of Community Affairs Friday alleging that DeFusco violated his own measure.

In the complaint, he alleges that “it is clear that during the official Hoboken City Council meeting described, Councilman DeFusco spent his time advancing his own political interests via his campaign social media with photographs he himself took at the meeting.”

In an email last week, Watson said he felt that it was time someone called DeFusco out on the carpet, in this instance for posting on his political Facebook page during the council meeting.

“I’m starting to notice a pattern where he attempts to pass legislation that targets his opponents and wanted to speak up,” Watson stated.

With that in mind, a screenshot forward to HCV shows that DeFusco posted a Facebook story on his political page at approximately 7:46 p.m. that said “In council chamber for a rainy August night … Come out, have your voice heard!”

On top of that, the controversial ethics ordinance wasn’t voted on until roughly 10 p.m.

When asked what action he expected the DCA to take if the vote occurred after DeFusco had posted on social media, Watson responded late Monday evening that “I know it’s just a technicality, but it doesn’t bode well that he’s violating his own ethics reform while he’s passing it.”

He also said he believes that DeFusco has acted unethically in several other instances and this is one way for him to finally be held accountable.

DeFusco campaign spokeswoman Caitlin Mota referred to Watson as a “Democratic political operative for the mayor,” asserting that his complaint is a “bogus allegation” since the councilman simply used his non-governmental Facebook page to encourage residents to attend an important meeting.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information. 

32 COMMENTS

  1. You have to hand it to Ravi Bhalla and his true contempt exhibited for anything good government. Now he has Doyle and Emily Jabbour laughably muttering “mean-spirited vindictiveness” about a decent good government ordinance. These are people who were once part of the Hoboken Reform Movement? Wheely?

    Who will be first to say it? Obviously, political operations are being run out of the mayor’s office constantly or all this Orwellian newspeak about a common concept that public employees should not be playing politics on the taxpayer dime wouldn’t cause all of them to howl like jackals. Ravi Bhalla and his mayor’s office cronies even launch an ethics complaint against Mike DeFusco over this. The only ethics investigation needed is on the Legal Department. Once again it demonstrates an utter lack of dignity, professionalism and self-respect for its ethically challenged boss in the mayor’s office.

    Anyone could of course post a Facebook message for DeFusco during the meeting. It’s hardly the end of the world but it shows you just how far Ravi Bhalla, Vijay Chaudhuri, John Allen and these political swamp monsters are willing to go to distract from their less than ethical activities. Chaudhuri was Ravi Bhalla’s campaign manager and is back feasting on the taxpayer tit.

    Ravi Bhalla hates ethics. I mean, he really, really hates ethics.

    • You conveniently forget the part of the story where it says the measure IS UNLAWFUL, why did you “overlook” that?

      What part of this do you not understand?:

      “The City’s Corporation Counsel advised Mayor Bhalla a portion of the ordinance pertaining to the prohibition on the Mayor speaking out on a ballot question, while permitting the Councilmembers to do so, is unlawful. Given this opinion, both the Corporation Counsel as well as Mayor Bhalla did not sign the ordinance,” he said.

      • Because anyone sees through the rank BS. Ravi Bhalla can speak about a referendum or anything else; just not using taxpayer resources. He can’t use the City website or Nixle. Dawn Zimmer gave him an email list she collected under City of Hoboken auspices too. He can and uses it all the time.

          • Nothing ignorant about basic good-government principles, unless you are a hack doing political work in Ravi Bhalla’s office.

          • Have to wonder how much of the attacks on Bhalla and his administration are based in racism and not just political gamesmanship before the november elections.

          • I have always believed that someone on Defusco’s crew made and distributed that flyer. Inanely convoluted logic would be needed even think Bhalla was behind it . The recent conviction of Frank Raia a DeFusco campaign worker and major donor on voter fraud charges makes it much more logical that was a a DeFusco campaign stunt.

    • Another lame attempt to smear the Mayor goes south.

      aWhat ever happened to Councilwomen Fisher and Giattino allegations of Councilman DeFusco’s ethics violations ? Or any other of his long list of dirty laundry ?

      Oh wait I forgot they are now under the same campaign management and they have gone deaf dumb and blind.

      • Ravi Bhalla is the smear merchant in Hoboken and he has a paid team smearing anyone whenever his actions are called into question. He’s not the victim but he is a victimizer of decency, good government and of course, ethics.

        Ethics are antithetical to Ravi. Smarten up! There is no campaign management, no ticket other than the Ravi-Russo Alliance Ticket which is on its last legs.

        Lying won’t fix Ravi Bhalla’s ethical problems, his second job problem with a Republican law firm and the unseemly manner municipal contracts are sought out and how the loot finds its way into his pockets.

        • LOL…you sound exactly like Trump at one of his rallies, trying in vain to energize the crowd with a disconnected rundown of his greatest hits: smear merchant! paid team! Ravi-russo! ethical problems! second job! Republican law firm! muni contract!

          “Build the wall!” “Mexico will pay for it!” Hmm, that one’s not working, ok, hold on, let’s see…”send them back!”

          • Is Ravi profiting at the border too? Wasn’t he down in Texas and then collecting some sketchy money from down there? Someon should look into that. Ask Mexico how much it’s costing them in drugs, women and children trafficking. Oh and then ask Pelosi how much it costs her.

            Hey, we can rebuild Ravi Bhalla’s ethics. It will take longer than securing a border but let’s help him wrap it up by November 2021. Then it won’t matter.

          • Hey MREA, I assume you’re being sarcastic because that’s pretty hilarious, good one. You forget to link Ravi to Pizzagate, is that’s still a thing? Maybe he also sold uranium to the Russians!

          • I remember Pizzagate! Ravi Bhalla had one of his $100,000 political aides handing out pizza to people standing outside Marineview when a unit had a fire. Ravi gave out pizza for votes and used taxpayer money to do it. Shoot, Pupie never stooped so low!

        • I remember the residents of MarineView inviting Mayor Bhalla to speak in their building and specifically asking that Councilman Defusco not attend.

          I also remember how DeFusco while being absolutely and knowingly in the wrong distort the facts and having one of his usual fits to get some press attention.

          The real voters of Hoboken’s First Ward who have had enough of the theatrics and lies will hopefully remove DeFusco in November.

    • Actually DeFusco’s Facebook page blocks anyone who disagrees with him and that apparently is enforced by his campaign media company.

      It is not an open forum but a carefully controlled and edited vehicle for his campaign rhetoric.

  2. I’m confused about the context here. If the Mayor doesn’t veto legislation within the applicable time period it becomes law – it is meaningless whether he signs it or just let’s the time for a veto lapse. So this “story” is to put it politely – a story about nothing.

    Attacking the mayor for not signing an ordinance that he doesn’t veto is the ultimate in political nonsense, which is ironic when the legislation is supposed to reflect DeFusco’s concern about political nonsense.

    The sad reality is that this “legislation” is nothing more than a political press release – meaning the ordinance itself is a brazen example of the “problem” it purports to be trying to solve.

    This circus is inside baseball – anybody on either side who thinks it will move votes is an idiot. But it is both sad and revealing that DeFusco is more interested in engaging in political nonsense about political nonsense than in engaging the residents of his ward about the merits for his ward of the Monarch settlement.

    • Good point, I was wondering about why Mike didn’t seem to fight for his ward in the Monarch deal. Lots of people in his ward think he just rolled over, too scared to offend all the developers and contractor unions who’ve donated big bucks to his campaign.

      At first I thought he’d be different with all his talk about vibrant new ideas, etc. Turns out he’s just another sellout politician who follows the orders of his donors instead of the concerns of his constituents.

  3. It is funny that Caitlin the Clown actually admits that while on City Time, in a City Meeting, Mikey DeFucko is using his campaign Facebook Account. That is exactly what he claims he is trying to get rid, but of course if Mike DeFusco does it, it can’t be wrong.

    C’mon Caitlin, did Philly Swibinksi really approve this message?

    • I heard they are rebranding the agency as Blurred Vision Media. Damn, they need to put on some coke-bottle Rx eyeglasses if they think these talking points are resonating at all. Amazing how they’ve somehow managed to hoodwink the Defusco/Ramos/Giattino/Fisher ticket into believing the average voter cares about non-issue “crises”, micro-distinctions and inside baseball. Seems like Phil’s losing his touch, trying to figure out how to be relevant a Hoboken that’s moved on from his world and style of campaign management.

  4. How is Councilman Defusco able to get away with blocking anyone who disagrees with him from his Facebook page ? It seems cowardly and manipulative .

  5. Based on the limp comments here during City Hall work hours attempting to defend Ravi Bhalla, I’d say the easily passed council ordinance hit its mark. Look at Ravi Bhalla’s taxpayer-paid operatives here going berzerk!

    • Do you have any verifiable proof that anyone from City Hall engaged on politicking on city time? I mean, actual caught-in-the-act evidence that you can present here, as opposed to imagined spin? Actual evidence that links a real person to an action? Anything? Yeah, didn’t think so.

      Here’s a shocker for you: there are A LOT of people in town with nothing to do with City Hall who think everyone on the DeFusco/Ramos/Giattino/Fisher ticket is a disingenuous bad actor, some of whom (like me) post as much here.

      All good, you’ve earned your pay for the day, go home now.

      • Well, you’re here and so is the mayor’s office whining away. There is no DeFusco Ramos ticket but there is the Ravi-Russo alliance, the sole ticket in November. Hey, look at the time. Bleepjay can go do his Ravi campaign job or rather not do it on taxpayer time now. Congratulations!

  6. Almost loses license after attempting to steal employee’s 401K contributions.
    Terror flyer obviously produced to gain national media during local election.
    Massive out of town/out of state election campaign contributions.
    Wins mayor office with only 33% vote.
    Takes second “job” before voting machines even stored.
    Nixle “alerts” whining about City Council.
    Explores limiting council member terms.
    Fights against office run-off referendum, because well…
    Attempts to increase taxes to keep his no-experience, vindictive boys on payroll.
    Millions $ trying to defend shady Hilton deal, fighting NYWW, fighting criminal Barrys…
    Releases hundreds of nats-on-scooters to mow down sidewalk pedestrians and cause intersection crashes, risking residents’ lives for mere–what? $10K?
    Every time he faces opposition, his spokespeople cry “racists!”
    What good has this no-majority Mayor actually accomplished?
    How much longer is Hoboken saddled with Bad Bhalla?

    • ****************************************************************************************

      More of the same horse manure and sewer gas stinking up the internet.

      ****************************************************************************************

  7. As a result of negative polling and focus groups by his public relation firm that is running Councilman DeFusco’s campaign will now try rebranding their candidate as a much less brash, flashy self absorbed negative jerk. Just one of the guy’s candidate Mike will even be ditching the flashy sports jackets and clothes and start dressing down, hugging carefully selected senior ladies and kissing babies.

    Can Mike and his handlers fool enough of the First Ward voters that he actually cares about them and their best interests and not just his own by November ? He has a lot of money from out of town donors looking to get a piece of Hoboken to try to make it work. Is he a good enough actor ?

    A leopard never changes its spots.

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