Monday, August 6, 2018

Sims and Battaglia Antics Cost Taxpayers over $500,000!

Remember this scoop from September of 2014?  It outlined the harassment and threats of retaliation that were being experienced by DPW and Sanitation workers by council members Dave Sims and Leo Battaglia. If you missed it, or need a refresher, take a few minutes to read it--it is unbelievable the bullying antics those two were (and reportedly are still) up to. 
This could be the only explanation......

Well the complaints went unresolved, the harassment continued, and it eventually lead to a lawsuit filed by two employees, James Murrell and Christopher Haw, against the City of Hackensack and Councilmen Sims and Battaglia in their official capacities.  The suit was quietly settled in late July for.... are you sitting down?.... $500,000! And that doesn't include the legal fees the City spent defending the two "Councilmen" (oh, but there is more coming on legal fees--a story is in the works, because in terms of lawsuits and legal fees, this council makes the Zisa crew they so continue to criticize look like altar boys).  As a part of the settlement, Murrell retired from the City effective August 1st.

And to think there is any validity to the rumors that Personnel Director Simeon Cumberbatch has been pushed out to make a position for the current Assistant City Manager in an effort to have Battaglia hired to the Assistant City Manager post...... Imagine the havoc he would cause if he ACTUALLY had an ounce of power over the day to day operations of the City and employees.  I would say such a move would be so shameless it couldn't be possible, but then again they gave his wife a 21% raise, then when it was reversed, gave it back! Shameless may just be Battaglia's middle name....

August 1 just came, as you write your quarterly property tax checks, ask yourself if this is what you signed on for when you bought a home in Hackensack.  We as residents and taxpayers deserve better!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Comes Down on Council

I have hammered the Council in this space on their lack of transparency and pay-to-play antics for some time.  If you recall, in January of 2014, I called them out on their lack of campaign filings or disclosures for their "Victory Dinner" fundraiser which was a high priced cocktail hour--more of a who's who of trough feeding attorneys and other vendors looking for government contracts.  

At some point during the span of January 2014 to present, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) has pored over the Council's campaign filings and bank records from the 2009 election in which John Labrosse was elected to the council, and the 2013 election when the Citizens for Change slate broke into City Hall (unfortunately like a gang of home invaders who have since wreaked havoc and turned the place upside down).  In an eighteen page and ten count complaint served on John Labrosse, Kathy Canestrino, Leo Battaglia, Rose Greenman, David Sims, and the Campaign Treasurer Regina DiPasqua on July 25, 2018, the NJ ELEC outlines countless alleged violations of the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act from 2009 through 2013.  The alleged violations include making deposits of donations without proper documentation, making reimbursements for expenditures without proper documentation, taking contributions in excess of the allowable amount per donor, not making proper disclosures of large donations from partnerships and corporations, and simply not filing certain required reports and disclosures.

Labrosse is the current Mayor, Canestrino and Sims share the post of "Deputy Mayor," and Battaglia is, well, a councilman.  A former ally to the Citizens for Change team, DiPasqua has since become a harsh critic.  Greenman resigned her post as a councilwoman and is still entangled in litigation with the City.  She was replaced on the ticket by Stephanie Von Rudenborg. 

I attempted to calculate the total number of alleged violations and fines outlined in the complaint, and stopped counting when the meter went over $100,000.  The group have the opportunity to be heard by NJ ELEC after filing an answer to the complaint, which is due within 20 days of the July 25th filing.  

Requests for comments from John Labrosse, Kathy Canestrino, Leo Battaglia, Rose Greenman, and Dave Sims went unanswered.  Rick Salkin, Esq., denies all wrongdoing on behalf of his client, Regina DiPasqua.  Salkin expects to ultimately receive a full exoneration on behalf of his client.  To the veracity of the allegations, Salkin contends that DiPasqua "has, and had, absolutely no knowledge." 

As for my own editorial comment, looking back on the 2013 election and the subsequent breakdown of the Citizens for Change team, we can all recall that the now "Labrosse Team" (my how big his head has become) was propped up by the fundraising efforts of politicos such as Anthony Rottino (he got a nice job in the City after the election which ended in litigation and a $500,000 hush money settlement out of the City), Thom Ammirato (got a lucrative City contract before he left in disgrace narrowly escaping indictment on theft of services charges), Frank Catania (later appointed Municipal Prosecutor and then disbarred for putting his hand in the cookie jar, his trust account), among others.  With such political muscle involved in the 2013 election, I doubt that DiPasqua was much more than a Treasurer in name only.

More to come...... 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

John P. Labrosse- Is the P for Perjurer?

This evening, Richard Salkin, Esq., a frequent critic of the City administration (former City Attorney and former Municipal Prosecutor) took Mayor Labrosse to task on his potential perjuring of himself at depositions in the Heck V. City of Hackensack lawsuit and potential misconduct in office in his relations with his employer, Hackensack University Medical Center, and the City of Hackensack.

Earlier in their tenure, the City Council, through City Manager David Troast and Art Carslon (City Tax Assessor), renegotiated the 2008 Developers Agreement with the Hackensack University Medical Center.  Critics of the Council hotly debated the renegotiation.  The City Council gave on tax appeals, reduced future air rights payments from the hospital, and hosed residents ending a long-standing agreement that residents would not be billed for emergency ambulance use.

Salkin sued the City over that agreement and, as part of a settlement, it had to be voted on again by the Council.  Mayor John Labrosse inappropriately did not recuse himself from a conversation regarding that renegotiation, which was a conflict of interest due to his employment with the Hackensack University Medical Center.

During depositions in the Heck V. City of Hackensack case, Jason Nunnermacker, Esq., asked John Labrosse if he obtained assistance from Anthony Rottino in obtaining his promotion at the Hackensack University Medical Center, or a raise.  Labrosse answered "not to my knowledge." 


Richard Salkin, Esq. asked him again at the September 27, 2016 meeting if he obtained assistance getting his promotion at the hospital.  Labrosse acknowledged then, and again tonight, that he simply applied for a job and got it, and that no assistance was given to his knowledge.  Unfortunately, there is documentation to the contrary.

In November 2013, John Labrosse sent text messages to Anthony Rottino, then Economic Development Coordinator, for the City of Hackensack, asking if he had spoken to “Jose” yet.  Jose, is, based on information, belief, and representations, Jose Lozano, the Chief of Staff of Hackensack University Medical Center.  This went on again in January of 2014, when text messages were exchanged between Rottino and Labrosse following up on whether Rottino and Jose had spoken as Labrosse needed to "make a decision."  Rottino then followed up in text messages to Jose asking if there was wiggle room on salary.  Jose advised "no," and said he would explain later.  Rottino then let Labrosse  know he spoke to Lozano and would let him know of the conversation.  Salkin shared with the audience that Rottino had represented to him that Lozano was not happy with promoting Labrosse over "two more qualified candidates at a steeper cost."






Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the intentional act of making a false statement under oath.  While Labrosse can lie through his teeth at council meetings, his statements at the deposition were sworn under oath.  Under NJ Statute 2C:28-1, perjury is a 3rd degree crime and such crimes are punishable by up to five years imprisonment. 

What is even more troubling than Labrosse’s apparent potential perjuring of himself is the timing of the promotion and the many subsequent breaks that HUMC received.  Labrosse has, since his promotion, had seemingly unlimited personal time to attend ribbon cuttings, ground breakings, and other events in the City of Hackensack during a “regular 9-5.”  While I do not know Labrosse’s work arrangements, it seems nearly every time I open Facebook, The Record, or other media outlets, I see pictures of Labrosse at events and City functions.  I seem to remember another employee of HUMC who had flexible working hours and held a position of political decision making that influenced the hospital.  His name is ex-Senator Joseph Coniglio, and he did a stint in prison. 


Hackensack Scoop contacted Jose Lozano of HUMC during the morning of October 17, 2016 citing these issues and asking for any comment or clarification that he could offer.  Lozano has not responded.  John Labrosse declined to retract his previous claims, and declined the offer to comment or clarify what is in the text messages. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mayor and Deputy Mayor Engage in More Pay to Play, Potentially Violate Criminal Code



DISCLAIMER: I am NOT an attorney or law enforcement officer.  The following is written based upon the perception of the council's actions and my interpretation of New Jersey's criminal code.


Mayor Labrosse and Deputy Mayor Canestrino are no new comers to the political process, or the dirty games of New Jersey "pay to play."  After their election, they swiftly took care of their supporters (Rottino, Ammirato, Catania, and on and on..... SEE: Out with the Patronage, or is it?) with patronage jobs and made up titles.  It all back fired costing the city hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, in lawsuits.  Not to mention the egg on everyone's face when their city funded campaign manager under the guise of being the city's public relations consultant was the recipient of a deal by the prosecutor's office to give up his public employment not to be prosecuted (See: Political Consultant Escapes Potential Criminal Prosecution).  But in this, their latest stunt, they may have potentially crossed the line into political bribery.

After the 2013 election, the council took care of their friend and politically ally Thom Ammirato rewarding him with a contract as the city's PR firm.  He quickly began making press releases and news bulletins on the city tax payer's dime boosting the Mayor and Deputy Mayor (you know, campaigning on your dime!).  Well, that all ended terribly.  HACKENSACK SCOOP uncovered that Ammirato had a full time (no show) job with the County working for Dirty Donovan and Ammirato's public employments came to a halt after his signing an agreement for no prosecution with the Prosecutor.  Something about these PR consultants is fishy, because they are at it again, but this time I think it may be worse!

On June 14, 2016 the City Council voted to approve the qualifying of Visions Media.  Then a month (give or take) later, they hired them as the city's PR firm.  Visions quickly reinstated those shameless pandering "bulletins" that are mailed to the residents and sending press releases to the local media highlighting the "achievements" of the council.  You know, free campaigning in this the last year before a reelection bid.

On June 14, 2016 at the same meeting that they qualified Visions Media, the Mayor admitted that Visions Media's principal was involved in the creation of the now nationally disseminated press release that highlighted Labrosse and Canestrino leaving the GOP over Trump's "racist" commentary.  Despite of course that their own Request for Proposal forbid contact with anyone other than the City Clerk during the hiring process!



Labrosse exclaimed (in defense of the PR stunt) that the charade was AT NO COST TO THE CITY.   Rightfully so, as it was not in the interests of the City.  But who paid for it?



I have been anxiously waiting for Citizens for Change to release their second quarter campaign filings.  I have been hoping that they paid Visions Media for that press release.  Well, they didn't!  Seeing how the press release was completed BEFORE the hiring of Visions Media by the city, and Citizens for Change did not pay for the press release out of their campaign PAC, there is only one logical explanation--Visions Media did this press release gratis ahead of a lucrative contract with the City of Hackensack.  Now you may morally question this.  You may shake it off and say "typical New Jersey politics."  My intuition instead makes me question how could this be legal?

I took a few minutes and looked up New Jersey's criminal code trying to gain a better understanding.

I found three areas of the New Jersey Criminal Code that peaked my immediate interest.

2C 27-2 Bribery in official and political matters:

A person is guilty of bribery if he directly or indirectly offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept from another:
a. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion of a public servant, party official or voter on any public issue or in any public election; or b. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, vote, recommendation or exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding; or
c. Any benefit as consideration for a violation of an official duty of a public servant or party official; or
d. Any benefit as consideration for the performance of official duties.

I leave it up to you the reader (and the Prosecutor) if it looks like Visions Media's assistance in the campaign press release regarding the Mayor and Deputy Mayor's disavowing of Trump can be viewed as benefits in exchange for a vote for a contract.......

2C 27-10 Acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by public servant for official behavior

Acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by public servant for official behavior.
a.A public servant commits a crime if, under color of office and in connection with any official act performed or to be performed by the public servant, the public servant directly or indirectly, knowingly solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit, whether the benefit inures to the public servant or another person, to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty.
b.A public servant commits a crime if, under color of office and in connection with any official act performed or to be performed by the public servant, the public servant directly or indirectly, knowingly receives any benefit, whether the benefit inures to the public servant or another person, to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty.
c.In addition to the definition set forth in N.J.S.2C:27-1, "benefit" as used in this act includes any benefit from or by reason of a contract or agreement for goods, property or services if the contract or agreement is awarded, made or paid by the branch, subdivision, or agency of the government that employs the public servant.
d.The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(1)Fees prescribed by law to be received by a public servant or any other benefit to which the public servant is otherwise legally entitled if these fees or benefits are received in the manner legally prescribed and not bartered for another benefit to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty;
(2)Gifts or other benefits conferred on account of kinship or other personal, professional or business relationship independent of the official status of the recipient if these gifts or benefits are within otherwise legally permissible limits and are not bartered for another benefit to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty; or
 3) Trivial benefits the receipt of which involve no risk that the public servant would perform official duties in a biased or partial manner. e.An offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit solicited, accepted, agreed to be accepted or received is of a value of $200.00 or less, any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the third degree.

I leave it up to you the reader (and the Prosecutor) if it looks like Visions Media's assistance in the campaign press release regarding the Mayor and Deputy Mayor's disavowing of Trump can be viewed as benefits in exchange for a vote for a contract....... 

2C:27-11 Offer of unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior. 

Offer of unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior.
a.A person commits a crime if the person offers, confers or agrees to confer any benefit, whether the benefit inures to the public servant or another person, to influence a public servant in the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty.
b.A person commits a crime if the person, directly or indirectly, confers or agrees to confer any benefit not allowed by law to a public servant.
c.In addition to the definition set forth in N.J.S. 2C:27-1, "benefit" as used in this act includes any benefit from or by reason of a contract or agreement for goods, property or services if the contract or agreement is awarded, made or paid by the branch, subdivision, or agency of the government that employs the public servant.
d.The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(1)Fees prescribed by law to be received by a public servant or any other benefit to which the public servant is otherwise legally entitled if these fees or benefits are received in the manner legally prescribed and not bartered for another benefit to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty;
(2)Gifts or other benefits conferred on account of kinship or other personal, professional or business relationship independent of the official status of the recipient if these gifts or benefits are within otherwise legally permissible limits and are not bartered for another benefit to influence the performance of an official duty or to commit a violation of an official duty; or
(3)Trivial benefits the receipt of which involve no risk that the public servant would perform official duties in a biased or partial manner.
e. (1) An offense proscribed by subsection
a. of this section is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit solicited, accepted or agreed to be accepted is of a value of $200.00 or less, any offense proscribed by subsection a. of this section is a crime of the third degree.
(2)An offense proscribed by subsection b. of this section is a crime of the third degree. If the gift or other benefit is of a value of $200.00 or less, an offense proscribed by subsection b. of this section is a crime of the fourth degree.

I leave it up to you the reader (and the Prosecutor) if it looks like Visions Media's assistance in the campaign press release regarding the Mayor and Deputy Mayor's disavowing of Trump can be viewed as benefits in exchange for a vote for a contract....... 


Resident files suit to have Visions Media Disqualified as the City's PR Firm

Today, Richard Salkin, Esq., a resident and tax payer (former City Attorney, former Municipal Prosecutor, current Board of Education Attorney) filed a lawsuit attempting to have Visions Media disqualified as the PR firm for the city.  In Salkin's suit, he cites potential criminal and ethical issues with the contract award and calls for the contract to be nullified.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Demarest Place Mural Gets a Facelift

When driving up Main Street you may have noticed an old faded and peeling mural on the side of Tati's Beauty Salon (along the Demarest Place side of the building).


Well, thanks to Stephanie O'Connor, a local artist and the owner of The Artistic Giraffe (A local business offering paint parties and art classes), this mural recently got quite the facelift!  O'Connor has named this mural "What Lives Matter."


O'Connor has worked with the City and local landlords to bring color and spirit to the community through several murals and projects, including another mural featuring several local artists at the corner of Bridge and Main Streets.  Of the murals O'Connor says,  "the City of Hackensack is strongly working towards bringing the arts back to Hackensack, and I am proud to be part of the strength and history."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adult Co-Ed Kickball Comes to Hackensack


Kickball for adults? What could possibly make that even better?

When your registration helps to support a charity!

For every new player to register between now and midnight on July 31, 2016, $5 will be donated to the Alzheimer's Association!



CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


If you have already registered, be sure to share this special with your friends and teammates!  
     
Help us to help put an end to Alzheimer's Disease!

Don't have a full team? Don't worry!
Register by yourself and we will add you to a team. Register with a small group of friends and we will make sure you all play together.  We have plenty of free agents and small groups to pair up!



Season will run September 10, 2016 - October 29, 2016
8 regular season games, plus playoffs (November 5, 2016)!
Games will be held on Saturdays between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm
Great drink and food specials after every game!  


Registration is closing soon, so don't delay!







A $5 donation will be made to the Alzheimer's Association for every new full priced registration between now and midnight on July 31, 2016