Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Stories of 2014

What a year it has been in the City of Hackensack.  As we get ready to ring in a new year--hopefully filled with redevelopment and progress--let's take a minute to look back at the top ten stories of 2014 (as ranked by readership).

Number 10- Political Consultant Escapes Potential Criminal Prosecution

Thom Ammirato, the campaign manager for the sitting council, was rewarded with a $78,000 per year consulting contract after the election.  Hackensack Scoop uncovered that he also held a full-time position with the County of Bergen which posed not only a potential conflict of interest but peaked the interest of the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.  After an investigation, Ammirato resigned from his position with the County of Bergen in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute.


Number 9- City of Hackensack to Pay Resident's Attorney Fees After Improper Denial of OPRA Request

The City of Hackensack has a history when it comes to improperly denying OPRA requests.  Despite promises to reign in legal bills, Tom Scrivo and his firm have been (metaphorically) backing up their armored truck to the rear of City Hall.  This council also promised transparency, yet those bills have been the subject of a number of denied OPRA requests.  In an apparent attempt to scare off residents seeking those bills, the city attempted to institute a "special service charge" for reviewing and redacting those legal bills prior to releasing them to residents.  Jason Nunnermacker sued citing the requests violated the Open Public Records Act, won, and the city had to pay his legal fees.


Number 8- Judge Issues Order Ending Harassment, Intimidation, and Civil Rights Deprivations by Bergen County Police

In a hotly contested race for County Executive, the merger of the Bergen County Sheriff's Department and Bergen County Police Department was made the face of the election.  Due to politically charged comments that the Sheriff's Officers are not police officers and actions taken to withhold the acquisition of equipment by the Sheriff's Department by incumbent Kathleen Donovan, the two departments were pitted against each other.  When Sheriff's Officers wore shirts expressing their support of challenger James Tedesco, they were denied access to the county administration building by the County Security and County Police.


Number 7- Rottino Presumably Enrolls Buddy in City Health Insurance

Anthony Rottino, the sitting council slate's political fundraiser, was rewarded with a created position (complete with health insurance and a city car).  That position quickly translated into Interim City Manager.  As the Interim City Manager, one of Rottino's first actions was to award health insurance benefits to his long time friend and business partner-- Frank Catania, Jr. Catania holds the part time post of Municipal Prosecutor.


Number 6- Suspect Allegedly Disarms and Assaults Hackensack Police Captain

This summer, Captain Foley of the Hackensack Police Department was attempting to question an individual napping in his car.  A struggle ensued and the suspect disarmed Captain Foley.  A big shout out to Officers Ghirardi and Koenig for saving the day.


Number 5- Department of Public Works Requests an End to Threats of Retaliation

The Departments of Parks and Public Works have been complaining of Councilmen Battaglia and Sims overstepping their bounds, since they have been elected.  These oversteps escalated into alleged harassment, threats of firings, and threats of consolidation of their departments.


Number 4- Hackensack's Municipal Prosecutor Facing Complaint by New Jersey Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Ethics

The same politically connected Frank Catania, Jr. who was given health insurance as the Municipal Prosecutor is facing strict penalties (which can include disbarment) by the New Jersey Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Ethics.  The investigation stems from an allegedly improper loan being made to Catania by a client through the use of client funds held in Catania's trust account.  Catania allegedly improperly borrowed client funds to pay personal legal bills and business expenses.  Catania continues to remain the prosecutor despite the charges (and his reportedly expunged history of drug charges) not being disclosed to the City of Hackensack.


Number 3- Anti-Donovan Facebook Page Gains Traction as Donovan's Power Struggle Intensifies

In the hotly debated County Executive race, the wives of the maligned Bergen County Sheriff's Officers started a facebook page against the reelection of Kathleen Donovan.  The group quickly gained traction growing to nearly 10,000 members.


Number 2- Donovan's Army Continues to Attempt to Violate Citizens' Civil Rights

When Sheriff's Officers wore shirts expressing their support of challenger James Tedesco, they were denied access to the county administration building by the County Security and County Police (see number 8).  Bill Brennan, community activist, said not on my watch and challenged the Bergen County Police Department.


Number 1- Police Officer Leaves Complaint Against "Commissioner" Sims

Another story first broke by Hackensack Scoop, this one received attention up to an including nationally syndicated radio shows.  Councilman Sims, an African American, allegedly told a police officer that he was the "Head Nigga," which the African American officer found offensive and out of line.


Officer Moise Flanagan attempts to jump on the law suit bandwagon citing retaliation.

Interim City Manager Anthony Rottino, run out of town by vocal residents, says he was harassed and intimidated by anti-Rottino stickers.  He says they caused him and his family to fear for their safety.

City Clerk Debra Heck was forced to resign by the sitting council.  She files suit claiming that she was retaliated against for her romantic relationship with political foe, Rick Salkin. 

Hackensack Scoop challenges Hackensack leaders to take part on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  They gratuitously accept and so goes the City of Hackensack's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. 

Don't listen to Crazy Councilwoman Greenman and her minions, the police got a fair contract in which they gave back more than they received!

Shout out to DPW workers who come to the aid of a woman and her baby in a motor vehicle accident which caused their vehicle to be overturned.

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