While Hoboken council can’t override mayor’s veto, cuts made over more payroll controversy


While the Hoboken City Council was unable to override the mayor’s veto on a measure related to future hirings in his office, they cut a small portion of the budget after they discovered that a former city employee was actually still on the payroll.

1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, who sponsored the ordinance to limit the mayor’s office to two non-civil service employees once one of the three current aides depart their post, said the measure made sense as a way to make sure that the city doesn’t “operate a political operation out of the mayor’s office.”

Mayor Ravi Bhalla vetoed the measure at the tail end of last year, citing an opinion from the Law Department that said the ordinance would not have any legal standing, which Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia reiterated during the meeting.

“The mayor’s office is not only entitled to two unclassified aides, but there are ‘other unclassified titles that are utilized in the mayor’s office.’ In other words, the mayor can have more than one classified employee, just not more than one unclassified secretary or more than one unclassified assistant,” Aloia stated.

Aloia also said that the ordinance was improper since the standard procedure to limit hires per department is to vote on how much money to allocate to their respective budgets.

“As long as it’s in line with the budget, you’re allowed to make appointments,” Aloia later added.

6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, who was elected council president for the fourth time last night, reiterated the importance of checks and balance and expressed great dissatisfaction with how the mayor’s office was conducting business.

“I was told that because of a differential in pay [payroll had increased], which is not true. It’s because we are still paying an employee. There no checks and balances: I think this is really important. There’s no transparency. It feels a little bit like City Hall is behaving like the White House,” she said.

The veto override failed by a vote of 5-4, the same vote where the second reading of the ordinance was approved, with Council members Vanessa Falco, Mike Russo, Jim Doyle and Emily Jabbour voting no.

A successful veto override would’ve required six votes, not just a majority.

City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri, as he has done previously, was quick to slam the council for pursuing the ordinance.

“Thankfully, Councilman DeFusco and Councilwoman Fisher’s vindictive law punishing the Mayor and his staff was rejected by the Council. Hoboken residents deserve Councilmembers who work on important priorities that benefit residents, not wasting time on personal attacks against the Mayor and the administration,” he said.

While Giattino’s comment about “still paying an employee” was curious at the time, it did not take long for the council to address the matter in more detail – though not as much detail as some elected officials would’ve liked.

Falco asked Business Administrator Stephen Marks what exactly had occurred for the mayor’s office to be paying a fourth employee.

Marks confirmed that the mayor’s office was currently paying four employees, as opposed to three, but said he could not discuss any of the particulars in public session until any employee in question was issued a Rice notice.

When pressed by 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, Aloia confirmed that the fourth employee in question was indeed still an active employee, not a former employee.

During the payment of claims, Giattino made an amendment to reduce the bi-weekly amount paid to the mayor’s office from $18,240 to $16,454 until more information was released about about the fourth employee.

That resolution passed 7-2, with Doyle and Jabbour voting against it.

Even though no one the dais said his name, anyone following the recent happenings in Hoboken could deduce that the employee in question was Santiago Melli-Huber.

Melli-Huber served as the city spokesman for the majority of Bhalla’s first year in office, though the city announced in November that his last day at work would be December 14th – pushed back two weeks from his initial departure date of November 30th.

His annual salary was about $72,000 and a month later Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora announced that Melli-Huber had been hired as his new spokesperson.

“The matter in question is a personnel issue. It is being reviewed internally to determine what information can be released,” Chaudhuri told HCV.

Inquiries sent to Melli-Huber and Gusciora seeking further clarity on the matter were not returned.

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  1. Thousands being paid to a guy working in Trenton full time for that city. Oh, how very curious. Here’s Corporation Counsel flat out lying calling the former employee an employee of Hoboken. Sorry, cloning is not a reality Mr. Lawyer dude.

    The continuing pro-Ravi “lawyering” by Brian Aloia is beyond tired. This guy is in full cover-up mode. Michael Russo weighs in critically with Ravi to protect the corruption. Who thinks corruptocrats are not in league taken back control of the mayor’s office?

    • YES YES YES we are all consumed with hating her. We sit day and night posting our hate on the internet

      Some may say the three of us are mentally unbalanced but we think we everyone will believe us and soon they will hate her too because we know we are powerful. We use a lot of different names because more voices make it sound better.

      • Don’t see anyone hating Dawn Zimmer here. You must be seeing things. Hoboken misses the dignity former mayor Dawn Zimmer conducted herself in office whether you agreed with her on an issue or not. You must be confused with the filth and hate from Ravi’s paid political operative blogger who called City Council President Jen Giattino a bitch for merely asking questions about this latest City Hall scandal. Ravi Bhalla, has to answer for this scandal but how does Ravi excuse paying Nancy to do this in Hoboken? How much lower can Ravi Bhalla go?

  2. No Vijay; this isn’t a “personnel issue”, it’s a question of corruption in City Hall issue. Is the administration paying someone a full-time employee salary when the person has a full-time employee job in Trenton?

    Remember, the Mayor we are stuck with (well, for the time being anyway, if this is just the tip of an iceberg) was censured by the Supreme Court for payroll violations. We need some immediate accountability on this item.

  3. Are all the thousands of dollars being paid after the employee left the mayor’s office for another full-time job to keep quiet about other things Ravi Bhalla’s been doing?

  4. Maybe Councilwomen Giattini and Fisher should propose empaneling a special investigative committee chaired by Fisher, giving Fisher unilateral subpoena power, to investigate this”scandal.”

    That strategy didn’t work out so well last time they and and their doofus friends tried to cook up a fake “scandal” (when the only scandal was their own venality and ignorance) – but maybe this time it will work out better. Investigative committees with subpoena power are all the rage in Washington, so why shouldn’t Hoboken get in on the fun. They could prove their democratic bona-fides by going after both Ravi and Trump, maybe getting a headline for being the first to subpoena Trump’s (and Ravi’s) tax returns.

    That might cost them Roman Brice’s support though, so they should tread carefully. He may have been left off John’s list but the power of the three real doofuses of Hoboken should not be underestimated.

    • Why do you think this is a fake scandal? Hoboken taxpayers are paying two people to do the director of communications role and no one bothered to tell anyone (and actually told the public the first one was leaving in November). One of the two has not even been seen in Hoboken or at City Hall since the end of November and looks like he has been in his new role in Trenton since December. On the face of it seems like the Bhalla administration is hiding something and has allowed taxpayers to pay this person for a “no show” job. Either a no show job or some kind of severance which I dont think is even allowed. Are you saying you dont think no show jobs are a big deal? This would never have happened under a mayor that we all miss and one I think you know well, Dawn Zimmer.

      • Since you’re a doofus who admits he doesn’t know what is going on and who lacks the intellectual capacity to even speculate intelligently, I don’t really care what you think.

        You and the other doofuses are, however, an endless source of entertainment. Stay doofy!


    • Is Stan Grossbard offering to make out subpoenas to investigate Ravi Bhalla’s latest corruption coming to light or offering a deposition where he’ll eventually bail and send the $750,000 bill to the poor residents of the Hoboken Housing Authority?

      • Same sad obsessed freak show under yet a different name attacking people who stopped caring about them and their insane hatred long ago and has reduced him to screaming insults and unsubstantiated allegations to pretend they are still relevant.

        • Nancy, get help. You called the City Council President a bitch because she asked a simple follow-up question at the meeting about payroll in the mayor’s office. You’re very sick, depraved, unhinged and disgusting. Oh, and really nuts.

          • Alejandro is that you ?

            Not Nancy but based on your previous Facebook attacks on her this sounds like your insulting “bitch” style ?

            Stay trashy it will help whoever runs against Michael in November.

          • No Nancy, don’t know who that is but we know your “style” attacking good people like a deranged lunatic. For Ravi. How much does he pay you?