Several Hoboken council members take aim at Bhalla over new of counsel position

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Several members of the Hoboken City Council are taking aim at Mayor Ravi Bhalla for his newly announced as of counsel position at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen, P.C.

Hoboken council

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Ravi Bhalla promised that he would serve the City of Hoboken as a full time mayor when he was running for the position, but unfortunately that appears to have been nothing but a bait and switch tactic,” 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, a longtime antagonist of Bhalla, said in a statement.

“ … This is a financial boon for the mayor that creates the potential for significant conflicts of interest where he will be in a position to use his public office to create business development opportunities for his new employer. That’s why it’s so important that we fully understand Mayor Bhalla’s relationship with this firm and for the City Council to continue acting as a watchdog to prevent any abuses of the public trust.”

The fact that Bhalla left his previous employer, Florio Perucci Steinhardt and Fader, prior to taking the mayor’s seat in order to work “full-time for the people of Hoboken” has opened him up to criticism from DeFusco and others now that he has taken another law firm post.

As Hudson County View reported over the weekend, Bhalla was named as of counsel at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen, P.C, which has offices in Morristown and Hackettstown.

“In this capacity, Ravi will provide strategic advice and counsel to the Firm, enabling it to draw on his broad range of legal expertise as a seasoned litigator and trial attorney,” they wrote on their website Friday night.

Rob Horowitz, a spokesman for Bhalla, added that his salary will be “well south of $100,000.”

With that said, add Council President Ruben Ramos to the list of council members who aren’t impressed.

“In my lifetime every Mayor severed employment with previous employer to avoid conflicts whether it be teacher, police officer or firefighter so once again we have a Hoboken first with a mayor having an employer outside the City of Hoboken while serving as mayor,” Ramos, who backed DeFusco’s mayoral campaign, said in his own statement.

“I am extremely concerned about potential conflicts of interest and the public has a right to know what compensation arrangement the Mayor has with this prominent Republican leaning New Jersey law firm. We have major issues facing our city and this becomes another distraction that leaves us with more questions then answers as we move our city forward.”

One of the firms partners, Mike Lavery, served as the chair of the state Republican Committee in 2017 (h/t Insider NJ).

“Voters in Hoboken took him at his word and elected him Mayor. Now we find that when he said he’d quit his job, he apparently thought he had a loophole to take a job with another firm that is as politically connected as the one he left,” 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino said.

She also said that Bhalla receives the highest compensation out of any mayor in the county. The Hoboken mayor earns a salary of $116,950.08, according to public records.

Giattino also ran for mayor and fielded a number of attacks from Bhalla and his supporters for being a Republican. She has since switched her party affiliation to Democrat.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, an early backer of Giattino’s mayoral run, also expressed disappointment in Bhalla’s decision.

“Am I surprised that he broke his promise to Hoboken residents? I want to be. We clearly need to know more about the overall structure, time commitment, financial incentives and potential conflicts that he has in this new arrangement and how it will be managed going forward to fully understand the implications to Hoboken,” she stated.

“But I can say that I have worked with many lawyers with this title in my professional career over the years and in all cases their primary role was client facing and revenue generating, not ‘mentoring and guiding young attorneys’. This would be the first.”

Over the phone, Horowitz scoffed at the council members criticisms, claiming they need to get their facts straight and put the November 7th mayoral race behind them.

“As Mayor Bhalla, committed to in the campaign, he’s still full time. He’s usually the first person to come to the office and the last one to leave it. The of counsel position is a limited advisory one and in no way will impact his commitment to Hoboken,” Horowitz asserted.

“Before council people launch their attacks, they should get their facts straight. It might be time for Mayor Bhalla’s former opponents to put the campaign behind them and start thinking about Hoboken first.”

This afternoon, 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham, who co-chaired Giattino’s mayoral campaign along with Fisher, also decided to enter the fray and certainly did not express any sympathy for the mayor.

“Mayor Bhalla should be focused on many of the ongoing and developing issues of Hoboken like Washington Street, Rebuild by Design, redevelopment projects, Union Dry Dock and voter fraud Instead Mayor Bhalla has found it more important to ‘mentor’ young lawyers?,” added Cunningham.

“The press release announcing his new position, however, stated that his requirements would instead involve ‘strategic advice’. The citizens of Hoboken expected that his strategic advice would be focused on Hoboken — not a law firm in Morristown. This unfortunately leads to more questions and concerns about his time commitment and conflicts of interests to say the least.”

This marks the latest chapter in Bhalla’s evidently strained relationship with the majority of the city council.

Earlier this month, the governing body overruled a mayoral veto by a vote of 7-2, allowing the voters to decide on whether or not to bring back runoff elections.

Only Bhalla’s running mates, Councilman-at-Large James Doyle and Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, voted against the measure.

 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with a statement from 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham. 

42 COMMENTS

  1. Wait, so now Ravi is a Trump Republican?
    Or does he just blow wherever the money is?
    This is utterly disgraceful.

  2. First into the office? Last to leave?

    So that means he’s working for the new law firm from City Hall?

    That’s supposed to make it better?

  3. Ravi’s campaign spokesman says the Council should put the election behind them, but…he’s using his campaign spokesman to comment, cmon! This is a political issue, thats why the city spokesperson didn’t comment on it, so stop pointing fingers at the Council. Deflecting is a bad look.

    Listen Ravi, lots of ppl make “south of 100k” in this city on one paycheck, you are deaf to the realities of Hoboken. Nobody’s job would ever let them take another job, because your time is what you’re compensated for and 116k is not a part time salary. Your audacity at thinking your legal pals will have run of city hall is abundantly clear and the council is a check on your authority….if you dont like being called out, stop doing weirdly dishonest things that make ppl question you. Everybody wants this City to succeed, everyone thinks its great you are the first Siek Mayor and supports your historic “first”…but one of those firsts shouldn’t be the first Hoboken mayor with TWO JOBS! Maybe it was your legal pals that put out the flier b/c they wanted contracts. This is a scary time and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Didn’t Mayors Russo and Cammarano have alternate (illegal) streams of income when they were in office ?

      Mayor Roberts still ran his families Hoboken based multimillion dollar bar and real-estate empire

      • Mayor Roberts reported to himself AND he also owned those businesses BEFORE he was a Mayor. He didn’t cut himself a side deal

        Maybe Roberts would like to know that Ravi is attacking him- at their next Delfrisco’s lunch?

      • When you need to compare Ravi’s side hustle and secret patronage to Russo corruption you must be really desperate.
        What next an apt for his parents in Church towers because he can no longer afford Nanny’s?

      • You haven’t been in this game long it looks like.
        Because anyone with any history of Hoboken corruption would not have taken Ravi’s head and smashed it against a wall like that.

        That was some bonehead play.

  4. Mr. Horowitz:

    We would love to get our facts straight. You could help by providing three:

    1. How far “south of $100,000” is it? $50,000 south? $25,000 south? $1.50 south???

    2. Does the Mayor’s new contract really give him all that money but never require that he work or leave Hoboken during hours City Hall is open? Really? Zero hours?!!

    3. If Mayor Bhalla is getting tens of thousands of dollars for ZERO hours worked during business hours, what exactly is the law firm getting for it’s money? If it is not his time it could be his influence, his connections, or his support. Or are they just looking for a rising Democrat politico to provide cover for their ample supply of Republicans? Time would actually be the least worrisome. You can be sure they’re not paying all that $$$ and getting nothing.

    Waiting breathlessly for your reply,

    YSTHTWS

  5. As far as getting facts straight, that would require making the “of Council” agreement as well as a proposal of how he plans on executing the role of Mayor alongside these obligations. This should have been a necessary conversation before any agreement was signed. I am going to venture a guess that aside from not discussing w his constituents or the full Council, he likely do not consult a specialist on ethics. This is what proactive people do even when there are no appearances of impropriety.

    • I am going to venture a guess that being a lawyer and this involving a highly respected law firm that the ethics were vetted well before any agreement was discussed.

      • Why guess. Tell Ravi to answer the fookin questions.
        Better yet, submit the law firm contract under public disclosure.

        Do it today.

  6. Peter Cunningham weighed in too on MSV at the Hoboken Horse raising the conflicts of interest concerns. So this Ravi scam on Hoboken sees the majority of the Hoboken City Council.

    Ravi says he can do whatever he wants. Hoboken should have seen it coming. Many did but Dawn Zimmer didn’t care and pushed a fugazy.

    • Peter Cunningham must be really desperate to stoop to even recognizing that site .

      Is Tiffany Fisher still running the attempt to fund MSV it keep it alive ?

  7. When Ravi was a reformer – he stood by Mayor Zimmer who said “one person, one job” now suddenly two jobs is okay. Just like he didn’t have any conflicts of interest with his old law firm because he was a “non-equity partner” — I’m sure he got a really nice holiday bonus from the old law firm this year. Would it behove the guy to simply admit he wants more money and that he lied to voters? If this job is compensating him not to show up, what’s in it for them? Contracts?!?

  8. Over on G(et) A(life), Nancy is now “helping” Ravi by asserting his ‘of counsel’ gig is essentially a no show job, essentially peddling the influence of his name.

    No. I am serious. After explaining that the optics suck, and challenging the Ravi-bots to keep the faith, PPB says that Ravi is selling his name, not his time.

    Earth to Nancy: if he’s really doing that, and I am not saying he is, it’s beginning to sound like a gig that could cost him a lot of time, years in fact.

    • Selling out Hoboken is ok? Well what did you expect from those clowns?
      Someone call the FBI. Ok, make sure to call the new FBI not the ones who covered up all the corruption by Hillary Clinton.

    • Sad to watch DeFusco’s partner try to shill for him on the internet. Or is just Mikey using his account as cover ?

  9. Sybil’s Cave the hostess finally came to and pinched out a story of spin so forced she was rushed to HUMC with hemorrhoids.
    Claiming she had a private call with Double Dipping Mayor (32% ) Ravi where he shared personal reasons for needing the bonus cash.
    It’s terrible when you need to take a side job because all you can afford is a weekend in the Poconos and not a trip to Disney like the rest of your family….
    Poor Sybil, her idol did her wrong and was revealed to be everything the candidates who collectively have more honesty in their pinky’s than Ravi has in his whole body.
    The man is a sham

  10. Well, well, well, the question of Truth or Spin by Nancy has been answered.

    Drum roll please:

    SPIN!!!! (actually, spin, spin, super spin, double-time spin, tap dance spin, spin like crazy) SPIN!!!!

    (nothing less than expected)

    So, even she said WTF? (should have stopped there Nancy, as that was the correct response)

    Then she tries to pretend that Ravi has “personal” reasons for taking the job.

    (Did anyone other than me notice that Ravi went from giving strategic advise, to mentoring young attorneys to whoring out his name?)

    Then she tries to paint investment returns as being the same as taking a salary/receiving a paycheck.

    Then she tries to show all of Ravi’s accomplishments so far (spinning hard, since there are none)

    And just for good measure a little hating on Jen Giattino to top it all off.

    #BenedictRavi #selfservemayor

    • Sorry GA, your ability to represent yourself is a laughing stock in the legal world.
      Judges thought you were a clown.
      Maybe you should stop acting like Lane and Perry and get a job

    • MSV pumping out so much raw sewage maybe the should call in somebody from the Hudson County Sewerage Authority to step in and shut down flow. Oh wait .

  11. A large boorish hairy smelly mammal was seen slogging through the produce aisle at Acme- stunk up the entire place… they had to rent one of their own Bissel floor vac to clean the slime off the floors.

  12. Just make the check payable to the Ravi Bhalla Civic Center; or, better yet, 25K cash.

    The old guard is sure getting the last laugh.

    • You mean the same old guard who in the last election worked to install DeFusco as their new Cammarano ?

      Happy they failed.

  13. Congrats Ravi for getting Hoboken the $1,000,000 transportation grant! And for saving the UDD property from being sold to NJ Transit! All in 8 weeks! Dont let the jealous do-nothings on the City Council bother you… Theyll all be gone in 2019. All of them. Roman might have a thousand screen names, but he’s only got one vote! Lol

    • Look Nancy returns to declare all the comments are Horse. This beastly woman is stupid. When did Ravi “save the Union Dry Dock?” Nothing is over with that situation and only Ravi’s propagandist would spread that lunatic fringe lie.

      Ok, who’s turn is it to make sure Nancy is put back in her straitjacket?

  14. So we have a Democrat running the show in Trenton instead of a suburbs favoring Republican from Mendham, and we’re impressed that the transportation grant was merely doubled. And worse yet, we’re giving credit to Ravi for doubling it?! Are we serious here folks???

  15. That story is based on a NY Waterway press release saying they will try to the State to give them permission. The need to try but its is unlikely it will get them the results they want.

    Last time I checked Governor Phil Murphy was not at all receptive to that happening.

    The sad part of this whole expensive political dance is that it didn’t have to happen if the some on City Council did their job in protecting the people of Hoboken from NYW and NJT instead of playing election cycle games.

    • You’re full of crap with these hollow defend Ravi talking points.
      Lost all public support that fast did ya?

      Did you see the council meeting Wednesday night? The public unleashed on Ravi and the City Council is asking proper questions of disclosure on Ravi’s “side hustle” law firm gig.

      You can’t talk your way out of it here. Forgettaboudit.

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