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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Council Runs Afoul Again... The Rules Don't Apply To Us!

The City Council has a history of not following the rules.  Whether it is not filing financial disclosures, not filing campaign reports, interfering with employees, but now, the ill advised Council is not following state statutes or NJDEP regulations.

Earlier this month the Council was questioned by residents Richard Salkin and Regina DiPasqua regarding the canceling of a July and August council meeting.  State statutes, and previously passed resolutions (by this Council), require there to be two public meetings per month.  When the resolution was brought to the attention of the Council and City Attorney by Regina DiPasqua, it was brushed aside.  When Former City Attorney Richard Salkin came to a meeting and read the state statute requiring that the City hold two meetings per month, City Attorney Carver rejected his assertions and smugly exclaimed that there would be no further discussion on the topic.  Well an Order to Show Cause was filed by Richard Salkin and the City Attorney's response?..... "We stand corrected," as reported by The Record.  Well, a question for Kathy the money girl, how much did that bad legal advice cost the tax payers?  The Council should be more concerned with listening to ALL of their constituents than playing politics and brushing off all comments from those who they see as "adversaries."


Council attempts to restrict use of new Splash Park 


The City recently opened its second "Splash Pad" for children to cool off in these blistering hot summer days.  This second water park is now opened at Carver Park.

The City requires that residents register with the Recreation Department to obtain an identification card to use the facilities.  When questioned about the use of identification cards and why the existing Splash Park does not require them, city officials advised that the Polify Road water park does not require identification cards because the splash pad was built with Green Acres funds, while Carver Park's was not.

Green Acres grants are available to help preserve and make available open space for public enjoyment.  Hackensack has several Green Acres projects.  Hackensack's Green Acres projects include:
  • Hackensack River Waterfront (development of waterfront) 
  •  Carver Park (Between First, Second, Clay and James Streets; acquisition and development)
  • Columbus Park (development) 
  •  Union St Park (development) 
  •  Baldwin Park (development) 
  •  Hackensack High School Athletic Field (development) 
  •  Second Ward (Polifly) Park (development) 
  •  Downtown Walkway (development)
What is important about this distinction of Carver Park being recognized by Green Acres as a "funded project" is that restricting use to only residents of Hackensack is a violation of Green Acres rules and regulations.  Unfortunately, whether bad advice from the City Manager, City Attorney, or CFO, what someone does not understand (including the City Council, despite being told by resident Regina DiPasqua) is that when any project or park is funded through even one dollar of Green Acres money, the entire park falls under Green Acres regulations.

Documentation obtained by Hackensack Scoop evidences that the NJDEP believes "having the splash park at the Green Acres funded Carver Park be residents only is in violation of Green Acres rules" and the NJDEP has turned the matter over to their compliance department to ensure that the park can be enjoyed by all residents of New Jersey.

Hey Council, START LISTENING TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS! You are only costing more legal fees and embarrassment when these blunders are in the newspaper.  I can see the headline now "City of Hackensack Improperly Denies Children Access to Public Parks."

Thanks to Nixle we know that the Splash Park will be opened tomorrow!  To heck with identification cards, if you are hot and want to enjoy some fun in an open park with friends, family, and a splash park, GO TO CARVER PARK.  If anybody asks for an identification card,  know your rights!  Advise them that Carver Park is a Green Acres funded park and that not one square inch of the park can be restricted from general public use! Don't take no for an answer!


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hackensack Rotary feeds 100 in need at annual Christmas in July

HACKENSACK– On Saturday July 9th, the Hackensack Rotary Club, Rotary District 7490 Governor Stephen Jarahian, the Christ Church and the On Our Own Self Help Center joined together to feed those in need at the Christ Church on State Street in Hackensack. Over 130 guests were provided a hot meal with a warm, friendly smile.

Hackensack Rotary’s club President Steve Koestner, Christ Church Warden Lou Knaub and On Our Own Self Help Center Program Coordinator Judy Banes saw a great need in the community and joined forces to build on what was historically a once annual project of the Hackensack Rotary. The Rotary Club has partnered with Judy Banes of the On Our Own Self Help Center (179 Main Street) to spread the word to those in need and help make this a successful project.








Rotary is a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional, and community leaders. Members of Rotary clubs, known as Rotarians, provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world. Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to contact Richard Gelber @ phone: 201-343-5600 or email: rich@gelber.net.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Petition Circulating to end Unfair Labor Practices by City Manager David Troast and the City Council


The Hackensack City Council, and their 4th City Manager in under 4 years, have taken to bullying and intimidating city workers.  This is resulting in lawsuits on your tax dollar, and a decline in city services.  Members from each of Hackensack’s collective bargaining units have complained that morale among their collective bargaining units are at all time lows.  Generally, I would brush it off as sour grapes or silly complaints, until I really listened.   

Councilmen Sims and Battaglia have bullied and harassed DPW workers since their coming into office (http://hackensackscoop.blogspot.com/2014/09/department-of-public-works-requests-end.html).

Deborah Keeling-Geddis came on to the council already showing her animus and hatred towards our uniformed services having gone to Trenton to attempt to block the approval of a bond issue citing reckless spending in giving the PBA modest 1% and 1.5% salary increases (despite the PBA contributing back up to 35% of the cost of their health insurance coverage).  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khsPjECyebw

Deputy Mayor Canestrino and Mayor Labrosse led the charge in hiring their campaign manager Thom Ammirato to be their city paid campaign manager while hiring their campaign fundraiser Anthony Rottino to a made up position (before making him the City Manager).  Well, Ammirato left Hackensack in disgrace losing two public jobs in exchange for an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office not to prosecute him (http://hackensackscoop.blogspot.com/2014/10/politically-affiliated-county-employee.html).  

After Labrosse and Canestrino fell out with Rottino, they pleaded behind closed doors with residents to help run him out of town. The result of the bullying of Rottino? A big fat settlement and lawsuit at the tax payers expense! And what are they doing now?  They have brought back a city funded public relations firm in this, their last year in office, to try to make themselves look good going into campaign season.   

Canestrino took it on herself, along with Rose Greenman, to harass and intimidate the City Clerk out of her job (http://hackensackscoop.blogspot.com/2014/08/you-read-it-here-first-former-city.html) due to her perceived “political affiliations. The result? Another big fat civil rights violation lawsuit that continues to be ongoing. 

The City Manager, in the last 6 months, has:

1) Negotiated a contract with the white collar employees which was finalized in January.  Despite the contract terms being complete, he will not sign the contract and according to a union member is “holding it over every worker’s head that they are working without a contract as a scare tactic.” 

2) Frozen steps for our police officers, despite a judge’s ruling that you cannot freeze steps because a contract has expired.  The City Manager refuses to give the young police officers their contractual steps.  What most people do not know is that police officers start at very modest salaries (approximately $36,000) before rising over a nine year period to a salary of $100,000+.  These young officers with families are struggling to make ends meet and the City Manager refuses to honor their existing contractual step increases. And why is he holding up the steps stubbornly?  Presumably because if an unfair labor practice complaint is filed the current contract negotiations are forced into arbitration (see 3 below).

3) Will not give the PBA a contract.  The PBA during the last contract negotiation accepted 1% and 1.5% salary increases while giving back up to 35% of their cost of health insurance benefits.  The result was a net negative increase in take home pay for every officer.  In this new contract negotiation, the PBA offered the city a 2-year contract with NO SALARY INCREASES.  The City Manager’s response? He FILED FOR ARBITRATION!

4) Started discussions on the privatization of the sanitation department which will result in a decline in services as a private contractor comes in and many hard working city employees losing their jobs!

While all of this was going on, the City Manager and CFO received $7,500 and $7,900 raises and the City Manager reinstated a 21% raise for Councilman Battaglia’s wife (http://hackensackscoop.blogspot.com/2015/04/councilmans-spouse-has-rescinded-raise.html). 

I implore you to please consider signing the below petition and telling your City Council to stop these unfair labor practices, treat our workers fairly, honor their existing contracts, sign the contracts they have negotiated, and give all of our collective bargaining units contracts!  The result if they don’t? A decline in city services and undoubtedly more lawsuits and shame brought to our City.  If they can give a councilman's wife a 21% raise, the City Manager and CFO a $7,500 and $7,900 raise, the HR manager a city car, spend $21+ million on pet projects, and hire their own campaign manager on the City's dime, they can give our policemen their steps, all of our collective bargaining units a fair contract, and keep all of our city services intact!

Petition:

Please feel free to forward this to your friends, family, and coworkers, should you feel so moved.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zisa Aligned "Team Hackensack" Endorses Deserter and Alleged Boisterous Bully for Board of Education

The Zisa Aligned PAC "Team Hackensack," which is self described as seeking to "participate in every aspect of Hackensack life: educational, governmental, civic, and political" has endorsed three candidates for the Board of Education.  These Zisa candidates are Modesto Romero, Johanna Calle, and Timothy Hoffman.  Modesto Romero and Timothy Hoffman are longtime allies of the Zisa family having both previously served on the Board of Education with Zisa backing.  The third candidate, Calle, is the live-in partner of the Chairman of "Team Hackensack" who recently lost (overwhelmingly) his bid to take over the Hackensack teachers' union (Hackensack Education Association).

Former Mayor Jack Zisa, brother of disgraced Ex-Chief Ken Zisa, serves as the "organization's" Treasurer 

Hoffman disappears from Board, chooses Zisa's in political rift


Well, Hoffman is kind of a longtime ally.  There was of course his brief hiatus from Zisaville when he flirted with the idea of remaining aligned with the offshoot faction of reformers, formerly loyal to the Zisa regime.  Insiders have advised HACKENSACK SCOOP Hoffman turned his back and went back to the Zisa's with hopes of advancement past the Board after feeling shunned when he was not considered for the chance to run for a vacant council seat this past year.  I can see how a naive young aspiring politician, who ultimately will want to seek higher public office, and potential public employment, can be sucked in by the charisma of the ever-tan Jack Zisa.  But like I said, naiveté at its best.  Remember, the moth drawn to the shiny blue light.... well he generally gets burned.  Going "all-in" on a ship wreck such as the Zisa name is a bold move that one can only hope for his sake pays off, as if not reelected his trust and loyalty are seriously in question by future handlers for higher level office.

Unfortunately more than just political shifts render Hoffman a no vote for me.  This past summer Hoffman's eagerness and hard work paid off when he landed a wonderful summer internship in Washington, D.C. pursuing his passions, and gaining experience.  Unfortunately, he literally disappeared from his responsibility to the Board of Education for three months missing over 750 votes at the Board.  I understand that this young eager beaver needs to gain experience and pursue his passions in a hope to form a career, however the Board of Education has a long standing policy allowing Trustees to telephone conference the meeting and participate and vote by phone.  Hoffman did not exercise these rights.  His place on the Board of Education is unfortunately no more than a resume builder and I can not endorse, or vote for, a candidate who would abandon his post not making his presence on the Board an absolute priority.  If Hoffman does not have the time and focus to concentrate on our children, he has no place on the Board.  Our children and the Board of Education are NOT resume builders to be used as a stepping stone to higher office.

But I digress... on to the point of the article.....

Romero in schools "compromises the safety and well-being" of school communities  


Romero, who has a colored past as a Board Trustee formerly served as Vice President of the Board. Unfortunately, his tenure on the Board was marked with divisiveness and controversy as he allegedly often let the title "Board of Education Trustee" go to his head, and give him a false sense of power.  Public records obtained by HACKENSACK SCOOP document incidences where Modesto Romero harassed, intimidated, and bullied public school employees, using his title in an attempt to receive preferential treatment.  Further, in these records a former district Principal advised the Superintendent that Romero's ongoing presence in her school (if allowed) compromised "the safety and well-being of the Hillers community."  




On March 10, 2010, Dr. Padovano (Principal of Hillers School), wrote a letter to Superintendent Ed Kliszus.  In the letter, Dr. Padovano memorializes at least two occasions where Modesto Romero interrupted her school causing scenes, using profanities in front of teachers, students, and parents, and creating an unsafe environment for a school.  On March 9, 2010 Romero allegedly barged into the main office with a parent seeking to enroll their child in the school.  Apparently there was an issue with documentation submitted by this parent and in the secretary's detailed account of the incident Romero screamed "this is bullshit and this bullshit is going to stop. I am Vice President of the Board."    Romero allegedly repeated this three times while pounding his fist on the desk.  The secretary described Romero as "bullying, rude, and disrespectful." 

Dr. Padovano's letter explains that this is not the first time that Romero behaved in such a manner and that he routinely refuses to follow district policies of wearing his identification badge and signing into the building.  On a prior occasion, Romero allegedly walked into his son's classroom unannounced and berated the teacher in front of students.  Padovano's letter states that on more than one occasion Romero has indicated that "he is the Vice President of the Board and will have her job."  

The letter goes on to state that Romero continued to harass teachers, secretaries, the assistant principal, and was frightening students.  Padovano concluded advising that Romero's ongoing presence in her school (if allowed) compromised "the safety and well-being of the Hillers community."  

When asked about Romero's past, the candidates' Facebook page apologized for my confusion and denied that such incidents have ever occurred indicating it must not be the same Modesto Romero.  Has more than one Modesto Romero served on our Board?



We have seen what harassment, intimidation, and bullying have cost our City.  More than $6,000,000 for Ken Zisa's charades and countless new lawsuits for the ongoing harassment perpetuated by our new council.  

First question to you the reader and voter, can the Board of Education afford a liability of a power hungry wild card such as Modesto Romero?

Second question to you the reader and voter, can you in good conscience support someone to be a guiding force in setting policy in our schools and being a role model to our youth with a hot temper and history such as this?  A district Principal's very words that Romero's presence in our school's compromises the safety and well-being of our children.

Third question to you the reader and voter, can you in good conscience vote for a slate of candidates that would associate with, and support, Modesto Romero?