Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Police Officer leaves complaint against "Commissioner" Sims

Rubbing people the wrong way seems to be becoming common place for Councilman Sims.  Several residents have complained that Sims is using his perceived political power as a member of the council to bully others in the Recreation Department over the use of City buildings and athletic fields.

In September, Sims had an alleged spat with the Institute of Latin American Art and Culture (ICAL) over use of the Civic Center.  In an email to then City Manager Stephen LoIacono, ICAL President Jimena Ladino recounts her experience with Sims, she refers to him as "rude and unprofessional."  Ladino indicates that despite having permission to use the Civic Center from LoIacono, Councilman Sims called Ladino multiple times to inform her that her permission had been revoked as it was his direction that "Dance Revolution" was to use the space.  Sims allegedly told Ladino, "I don't care who you talked to.... I am in charge of the Civic Center."

Ladino went on that when asked to put his position in writing, Sims refused.

Councilman Sims has a funny way of introducing himself...


A Hackensack Police Detective has left a written report alleging inappropriate conduct by Councilman, and "Police Commissioner," David Sims.

This African-American female detective indicates in her report that on April 4, 2014 an unidentified black male approached her in the Hackensack High School parking lot and introduced himself.  Where most gentlemen may say, "Good afternoon, my name is..." Mr. Sims allegedly had a different way of introducing himself on this occasion.  This detective alleges that Mr. Sims stated "I don't think we've met but I wanted to introduce myself to you.  I am the Head Nigga it don't get no higher than me.  Take my business card."  The detective indicates that the business card identified this individual as David E. Sims, "Councilman" and "Police Commissioner."

The officer indicates that upon further research she was able to confirm that the unidentified black male was in fact Councilman Sims.  The officer goes on in her report to state that she "understand[s] some African Americans choose to use the term 'nigga' as a term of endearment" she goes on that she is "appalled that he would feel so comfortable to introduce himself to me as the 'Head Nigga' ... it was a terrible experience..."


Director Mordaga did not answer a request for comment on the matter.  Currently believed to be under investigation spokesman for Sims, Battaglia, and Greenman (Thom Ammirato) has previously made it clear that he does not work with bloggers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rottino presumably enrolls buddy in City Health Insurance

At their reorganization meeting on July 1, 2013, the council hired Frank Catania, Jr. as the Municipal Prosecutor.  Catania is a longtime friend, business partner, and political donor of now Interim City Manager Anthony Rottino.

Frank Catania, Jr.
Effective December 16, 2013 Catania enrolled himself and his two children in the city's health insurance and dental plans.   The former Municipal Prosecutor, Richard Salkin, was not afforded this perk of fringe benefits. 






The timing of Catania's enrollment is highly questionable as it came mere days after Rottino took over as Interim City Manager.  Perhaps this is another reason for the divide of power as reliable sources who asked to remain anonymous, because of their employment with the City of Hackensack, have revealed that former City Manager Stephen LoIacono refused to enroll Catania when approached.  It is my understanding that under the terms of Mr. LoIacono's separation agreement both he and the city refrain from commenting on matters pertaining to one another, therefore LoIacono was not contacted for comment.

The City of Hackensack is currently under contentious negotiations with its police officers.  The Hackensack Police Department has worked since December 31, 2012 without a contract.  A PBA Local 9 member who wishes to remain anonymous as contract negotiations continue has indicated to The Scoop that a major stumbling block at the negotiation table is health insurance benefits.  This information regarding a part time worker receiving generous benefits from the City of Hackensack undoubtedly puts ice water on the contract negotiations.

Is this how we thank the men and women of our police department who have made a major change in crime rates and improvements to quality of life issues in the last year?  Thank goodness our Class I Fire Department settled their contract before Rottino took a seat at the table.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think that Mr. Catania has a message for the tax payers and residents of Hackensack....




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Councilman's wife receives 21% raise

The Hackensack City Council has apparently suffered a fracture.  Mayor John Labrosse and Kathleen Canestrino have presumably called for the removal of Thom Ammirato (The Write Associates) as they have publicly stated that Ammirato will no longer be handling their public relations matters.  However, they have presumably not mustered the votes to remove Ammirato as he remains a city contractor.

Leo Battaglia is a long time ally of the Canestrino's and Citizens for Change, he unsuccessfully ran for council with Kathleen's husband Emil, several times.  When directly asked if Ammirato will continue to write statements and press releases for Councilman Battaglia, Battaglia quickly remarked "YES." 

After years as allies, why the sudden swift divide?  Maybe Battaglia didn't feel he had enough of a "say" in city matters?  Perhaps Canestrino and Labrosse remarked that a 21% raise for a councilman's wife was inappropriate, that it opened the council up to bad press?  As this is a personnel matter that the council can not comment on, perhaps we will never know if this is a piece of the puzzle? 

Councilman's wife gets $10,000 raise


I wonder what the monthly payment on a Mercedes E350 is?  Do you think it equates to about $769.24?



Councilman Battaglia's wife (Maria Helen Battaglia, MHB) serves as a Clerk Typist in the Hackensack Municipal Court.  This year (after Battaglia's being elected to the City Council) Battaglia's biweekly pay increased from $1,867.68 to $2,252.30.  That equates to a monthly increase of $769.24 and is a staggering 21% or $10,000 per annum raise.





What is with this divide?

The Citizens for Change are clearly undergoing "growing pains."  Having put their faith in (and given too much power to) unknown out-of-town political operatives, they are (hopefully) attempting to right their early wrongs and take back the City of Hackensack.  If Battaglia is attempting to "flex some political muscle" and show Canestrino and Labrosse he can "stand on his own two feet," I think he is choosing the wrong battle.  Ammirato, who is the presumed target of subpoenas served by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, is not exactly the smart pick of issues stand up for.  In an election year, these subpoenas are undoubtedly going to get a lot of press.  Without a miracle, that "YES" can most definitely mean a swift end to a political career...... 


MORE TO COME..... 








Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hackensack SOAR takes part in "Sticker Shock" campaign

On Monday, April 22, 2014, six Bergen County youth residents from Hackensack SOAR (Steering Out Alcohol Responsibly) took part in a county-wide campaign called Sticker Shock at Simple Simon Liquors on Essex Street in Hackensack.

SOAR is a youth-led organization based in Hackensack that is focused on changing the community norms and educating the community about the dangers of underage drinking while developing youth and adult partnerships. The students not only educate the community but they also build their leadership skills and encourage their peers to make smart choices. Member Jennifer Luna said “Being a member of SOAR means not only being a leader in my community but knowing the fact that through hard work and dedication I can change the lives of teens my age. I can demonstrate to these teens that there are other alternatives rather than indulging in alcohol and drugs.” The Sticker Shock Campaign was held in April because April is recognized as Alcohol Awareness Month. Earlier in April SOAR was recognized by the Bergen County Freeholders for their work around preventing underage drinking.

The Sticker Shock campaign is run by the Bergen County Prevention Coalition which is an initiative of The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources, a Program of Children’s Aid and Family Services. It is a youth driven project held in order to limit the use of alcohol by minors. The event consists of stickers and bottle hangers being placed on packages of alcoholic beverages throughout the liquor establishment. The stickers act as “warning labels” and notify the public of the consequences of providing or purchasing alcohol for minors, which can result in six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. The main goal is to reduce minors’ access to alcohol by educating adult providers. If you are interested in becoming a member of SOAR or would like more information, please contact Jamie at 201.740.7099.

Sophomore Melissa Tufts places a warning on a bottle of wine

Back row (left to right): Melissa Tufts, Jarnells Laignelet, Jade Cheatham,
Mahmoud Mahgoub, Paresh Patel (Simple Simon Owner)
Front Row: Ariana Berberabe, Jennifer Luna


About The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources 
The Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources provides community and school-based education programs about alcohol and drug abuse and advocates for responsive prevention and treatment services. The Center's offices are located in Hackensack and its services are available throughout Bergen County. For more information, please call 201.261.2800 or visit www.tcadr.org.

About Children's Aid and Family Services 
Children’s Aid and Family Services is a leading nonprofit human services organization serving northern New Jersey. The agency is fully accredited and has served the community for more than 110 years. Its mission is to preserve, protect, and when needed, provide families. Motivated by compassion and in partnership with the community, we make positive lasting differences in the lives of those we serve. We provide high quality, innovative services to children and their families that advance social, educational and emotional development and wellbeing. For more information on Children’s Aid and Family Services, call 201.261.2800 or visit www.cafsnj.org.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are political intimidations, not just hirings, coming out of County Executive Donovan's office?

Today, John Ensslin of the Bergen Record reported on a threat of suit received by the County of Bergen as it pertains to the demotion of Jane Linter.  Linter, who had civil service protection was demoted from Director of Human Services to her protected civil service position as coordinator of child care services.

The move is alleged to be retaliation for not supporting County Administrator Ed Trawinski and County Executive Donovan's Chief of Staff Jeanne Barrata in their removal of former Director of Community Transportation, Rudy Pastercyzk, from his job.  When asked by Linter why she was being demoted, Barrata allegedly offered the explanation that she served at the pleasure of the County Executive.

I have already reported on the questionable political hirings of Joe Scarpa and Thom Ammirato by the County of Bergen under the reign of Kathe Donovan.  Further requests for documents pertaining to the hiring of employees (that I believe to believe to politically motivated), including Barrata, have been denied by County Counsel.  But is political retribution, arguably a worse offense putting the tax payer on the hook for legal fees and settlements, also oozing out of Kathe Donovan's office?

I commend Ensslin for putting these questions forth.  But is Linter's demotion an isolated event?  A police report filed in Fair Lawn this summer, may support the allegations of strong arm tactics and bullying emanating from Donovan's camp.

Barrata, Donovan's Chief of Staff, allegedly wages war on retired veteran

Jeanne Barrata
In August of 2013, a highly decorated retired-veteran and active community leader, Michael Agosta, was allegedly met with threats and intimidation by Jeanne Barrata at the Fair Lawn Athletic Club.  The police report alleges that Barrata used threats and intimidation against Agosta.

The report, made on August 2, 2013, alleges that Barrata told Agosta to "watch your ass" as "the police have you on their radar."  Agosta indicated he had fear as Barrata was the Deputy Mayor of Fair Lawn and had a perceived influence over the Police Department.

The report also includes reference by an independent witness that an intoxicated Barrata made unprovoked threats to Agosta through third parties at fundraising events.  The independent witness alleges her actions to be retaliation for Agosta's perceived alliance with Sheriff Mike Saudino who Donovan's office has sparred with over several matters including the controversial proposed merger of the Bergen County Police Department.


Barrata's alleged retaliation of Agosta extends to as early as 2011, which coincides with the time that Saudino and Donovan's feud commenced.  In November of 2011, Agosta returned from Afghanistan, where he was serving his country, to find a Bergen County Military Service Medal in his mailbox in an unmarked envelope.  These medals are typically presented to veterans in a public ceremony.  Agosta feels that the receipt of this medal in an unmarked envelope via postal service was further retaliation and insult from Barrata.

With all of these alleged political hirings, demotions, and intimidation by members of the County Executive's office, I can only wonder during this election season if these individuals and practices are endorsed by Kathe Donovan.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Has the Council declared a Civil War?

At tonight's council meeting, Mayor John Labrosse opened the public portion of the meeting with a statement that Thom Ammirato will no longer be writing press releases or statements for himself or Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino. He cites personal reasons, as well as, open questions regarding Ammirato's county employment and the outstanding subpoenas that have been issued to three of Ammirato's employers.

Canestrino was absent from this evenings meeting. Council members Battaglia, Sims, and Greenman did not offer comment on the matter.

When asked if Ammirato's monthly pay of $6,500 would be adjusted for the lighter workload, Interim City Manager Anthony Rottino commented that Ammirato's salary is set by the council. When asked about Ammirato's pay being adjusted, Mayor Labrosse advised "not at this time."

It is clear that after the warnings of many a tax payer, Labrosse and Canestrino may be starting to 'see the light' as it pertains to jumping into bed with your political cronies. I wonder how many back room straw polls went to a 3-2 vote to terminate Ammirato? Or any other political hacks for that matter. I would urge Labrosse and Canestrino to push to have Ammirato's employment put on the agenda.  Bring the matter to a vote and let the council put their positions, and votes, on the record for the public.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

More election season political hirings in Bergen County?

After uncovering irregularities with Mr. Thom Ammirato's hire by the County of Bergen (and conflicts of interest with his City of Hackensack contract), I dug a little deeper into some of the County of Bergen's crop of hires from the Bergen County Republican Organization.  It appears that Mr. Ammirato's political hiring wasn't a fluke and there are some questionable hiring practices at One Bergen Plaza.

Republican Councilman (and candidate for reelection) from Rochelle Park, and former District 38 Assembly Candidate, Joseph Scarpa served for fourteen years as the Emerson Borough Administrator.  In November of 2013, for no doubt politically motivated reasons after a year of strife including harassment charges brought by the borough clerk and filed against a councilman, Mr. Scarpa's contract was not renewed.  Mr. Scarpa was paid through the end of the year and landed on his feet in no time as a Director of Administration and Program Development for Bergen County's Department of Public Works.

Mr. Scarpa submitted a job application to the County of Bergen on February 21, 2014.


For what he submitted an application, I am unsure.  As you can see below, I don't think he was certain either.


What he was hired for was an $85,000 per annum position as the Director of Administration and Program Development. 


I am not sure what this position was, so I asked.  I learned that Mr. Scarpa would be acting as basically a second in command to a department head.  A job that I am sure he is more than qualified, perhaps over qualified, for after serving fourteen years as a Borough Administrator. 


What was curious however, is that Mr. Scarpa's application for employment was seemingly blank.  There was no phone number, no background information, no position applied for, and no references.  Mr. Scarpa also did not submit a resume for consideration.  


According to dictionary.com, a resume is "a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job."  In Bergen County politics (I'm sorry, I mean government), applicants for jobs seem to not submit resumes (or even complete applications, for that matter).  I have asked for several other key employees' resumes and have been advised by County Counsel that no resumes were submitted.  It seems that in Bergen County the old it ain't what you know, but who you know, is less of an adage and more of an unwritten rule.

I wonder how Mr. Scarpa was contacted for an interview?  An email address and phone number were not provided.  How was his education confirmed?  A bachelor's degree is REQUIRED for this position, but the education information on the employment application was left blank (and no resume was submitted).  Since no phone number was provided, an interview had to be set up via mail, right?  I asked for communications with Mr. Scarpa from the personnel department and all that was produced was a short email announcing he was hired.  

Further, I find it curious that Mr. Scarpa did not disclose his past employments on his application.  He was specifically asked for all previous government employment on his application and he only disclosed that he was a Councilman in Rochelle Park.  He did not disclose that he was the Borough Administrator for Emerson (or Bogota) under the expansive "previous employer" section of the application. 




Mr. Scarpa is a direct report to Joe Crifasi, the Bergen County Director of Public Works, Chairman of District 36 of the Bergen County Republican Organization, and ghostwriter of many a political 'Letter to the Editor.'  I wonder if that is a coincidence? After all, Mr. Scarpa is an out of work Republican with strong ties to the BCRO....


What raised the most questions of all about this hiring is that the position seems to have gone UNADVERTISED!  I requested a copy of the advertisement for this position and I was provided an advertisement for a Director of Administration and Program Development in the Department of Human Services (NOT PUBLIC WORKS) from 2012.  Perhaps this is why Mr. Scarpa left the position applied for section of his application blank?



I followed up with County Counsel seeking clarification.  Perhaps naivete.... I did not understand how Mr. Scarpa was hired to a different department than the fifteen month old advertisement that the County relied upon for hiring him.  I also did not understand why Mr. Scarpa's base salary was more than three times the advertised rate.  Requests for clarifications have gone unanswered since April 4th.  




Further requests for employment applications have been DENIED by the Bergen County custodian of records.  County Counsel has taken the position that the job applications of other (what I deem to be) politically motivated hires (mostly direct reports to County Executive Kathe Donovan) are not subject to disclosure under OPRA.  When asked why Mr. Scarpa and Mr. Ammirato's were previously provided, I was advised they were provided in error.  It is funny how transparency and open government go out the window when you shake the wrong (well, right) branches.

**I take no issue with Mr. Scarpa or his employment by the County of Bergen.  I am certain that he is qualified, and even a nice guy as I was continually reassured of by the number of phone calls I received within 48 hours of submitting OPRA requests for his application and resume (it is funny how much chatter comes from both the County and City when I submit requests for documents).  What I take issue with is the non-transparent and politically motivated hirings, the what looks to be CREATION of a position.




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hackensack holds opening day

Today, the Hackensack Recreation Department hosted their annual opening day for the youth baseball and softball programs at Foschini Park.

Girls Tee Ball Teams were sponsored by: 
Carvel of Hackensack 
The Hackensack Volunteer Ambulance Corps

Boys Tee Ball Teams were sponsored by: 
The Lodi Moose in Hackensack 
QuickChek 
Hackensack Rotary
Hackensack UNICO

The 7-8 Year Old Teams were sponsored by: 
Hackensack Late Nite Pizza and Steak
The First Presbyterian Church 
Hackensack Troast Athletic Club
Toyota of Hackensack

The 9-10 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
The Hackensack Chamber of Commerce
The Hackensack Volunteer Ambulance Corps
Hackensack PBA Local #9
ShopRite of Hackensack (Inserra Supermarkets)

The 11-12 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
Citizens for Change
The Hackensack Elks #658
Blue Dog Graphics

The 13-15 Year Old Teams were sponsored by:
 Pro-Player Baseball Academy
The Hackensack FOP

The Girl's Softball Team was sponsored by:
Parisian Beauty Academy





Saturday, April 5, 2014

HFD hosts MDA day

VIA HFD:

Hackensack Professional Firefighters, Locals 2081 & 3172, in coordination with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Jersey hosted their 2014 fill the boot kick off campaign today.

Children and their families got to talk with firefighters, were given a tour of the firehouse, got to take home some fire safety items, and enjoyed a pizza lunch which was provided by IAFF locals 2081 & 3172.









“The smiles on the kid’s faces were priceless” said Hackensack Firefighter and IAFF local 2081 MDA coordinator Timothy Rice.

Hackensack firefighters have been working with MDA for over 35 years raising money to support MDA families.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Hackensack gets ready to "Slam Dunk the Junk"

Hackensack's annual "Clean-Up Day" will be taking place on Saturday, April 26th, RAIN OR SHINE.  

Check-in for volunteers will be held at 9am at Java's Brewin' (270 Main Street). Volunteers will help clean up parks, schools, and other public areas from 10am to noon.  A barbecue for the volunteers will be hosted by the Hackensack Elks at noon (37 Linden Street).

You (or your group) can register to participate in this annual clean up day by calling the Clean Communities Coordinator at 201-646-3920 x2013.  You can also fill out this form and submit it to cpanny@hackensack.org.

Pictures from the 2013 "Clean-Up Day"