Tuesday, May 19, 2015

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Council Sells Out Residents to Mayor’s Employer, Resident Files Suit

Council remains silent as they are questioned by residents

In 2008, the City Council, under advice of special counsel Richard Salkin, Esq., entered into an agreement with the Hackensack University Medical Center regarding the development of certain properties owned by the hospital.  Under the agreement, HUMC paid $400,000 per year in rent, scheduled to rise to nearly $1,000,000 per year for a 50-year air right for a walk way constructed over Atlantic Street. 

According to Richard Salkin, who largely crafted the agreement, the formula for the annual rent was negotiated by HUMC and tied to the City’s tax rate, which has increased since 2008.  HUMC has seen larger than expected increases to their annual rent for these air rights, and came back to the city to renegotiate.  Using several tax appeals as leverage, HUMC (according to Salkin) “bullied” and “stampeded” the Council into renegotiating the deal out of fear. 

Under the new agreement with HUMC, the hospital will pay the City $4.5 million, they will drop their $3 million in tax appeals, their annual air space rent will be reduced to $200,000 for the remainder of the lease (with no annual increases), and the City will stop being billed for ambulance services (more on that below). 

A key, and very controversial, aspect of the 2008 agreement included the disbanding of Hackensack’s paid-EMS services.  Under the 2008 agreement, HUMC provides ambulance services to the City of Hackensack and bills the City for any fees above and beyond $140,000 (done at gratis) for service billings not collected from patients’ insurance companies.  In the past 8 years, this billings averaged between $15,000 and $20,000 per year.  

Under the new agreement, the City will not be billed for any services, instead all residents will be billed directly.  This represents an additional at least $160,000 in billings for the hospital on the backs of tax payers, all so that the City can save about $20,000 per year.   Despite the agreement being signed, and a resolution adopting it having been passed, the City Manager David Troast (presumably in a lame attempt at defending this terrible BLUNDER) has continued to assert the billing for services is still under negotiation.  Outraged residents countered the Council’s assertion the ambulance services were not openly discussed by pointing to emails circulated in November where HUMC clearly wrote of the ambulance service billing being done direct to residents.

Resident Jason Nunnermacker spoke at the council meeting this evening charging the council with negligence, laziness, and incompetence in their negotiation of this contract.  Nunnermacker pointed the Council’s attention to the fact that the resolution authorizing the agreement was passed in March, however a draft circulated in as early as December clearly reflected the removal of providing free services to residents.  Nunnermacker told HACKENSACK SCOOP, “Incompetence, neglect and laziness run rampant in this administration with the true victims being the City’s residents.  It is sad, and a shame.”

Today, Richard Salkin filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writ seeking to have the new agreement thrown out by a judge.  Salkin asserts that there are conflicts of interest abound, and charges Mayor Labrosse with a history of flagrant disregard for ethics laws in his serving as Mayor of Hackensack. 

Labrosse, who works for HUMC (and was promoted from a Janitorial position to a white collar title “Safety Inspector” after obtaining the seat of Mayor), and whose wife is a Board of Education employee, has voted on at least two occasions on matters before the Council pertaining to the hospital and voted to approve an $800,000 settlement agreement with the Board of Education last year.  Salkin contends that Labrosse continues to disregard his ethical obligations in this deal with HUMC.  Labrosse was present for closed door negotiation discussions pertaining to the renegotiated deal, and according to the suit was “kept in the loop” on email exchanges post-deal as the Council scrambled to craft talking points around the deal when questioned on the blunders and give-aways to the hospital.

According to Salkin, this renegotiated deal is a $16,000,000 windfall for the medical center.  Salkin is seeking to have the renegotiated deal overturned by a judge for two reasons.  First, Mayor Labrosse’s involvement in confidential negotiation discussions, despite his employment with HUMC.  Second, the technicality that the council has sought to revise an ordinance passed in 2009 (the 2008 agreement) through a resolution, which he asserts is not proper under the law.   Salkin contends that this deal was so hastily negotiated and settled that the city attorney (who has no problem billing the City) only spent 24 minutes reviewing the contract.

When asked by Editor-in-Chief Steve Gelber of HACKENSACK SCOOP, no member of the council, City Attorney Tom Scrivo, and Chief Financial Officer Jim Mangin could not identify who represented the City’s interests as an attorney in the negotiation of this deal.  They pointed the finger at City Tax Assessor Art Karlsson.  When asked if any more than 24 minutes to review the final contract billed by Tom Scrivo was expended by attorneys assisting the City in negotiating this mammoth contract, there was absolute silence.  When Gelber elaborated asking if the City relied solely on our Tax Assessor to review legally binding documents and contracts, the silence continued. 

Salkin told HACKENSACK SCOOP, “The most generous way I can describe the Council’s performance in this matter is collective negligence.”  Salkin, of his suit stated, “I believe that someone has to at least try to stand up for the residents of Hackensack.  For those who are sick of hearing about litigation in Hackensack, I hope they understand that this type of litigation proceeding, challenging the action of a public entity does not seek money damages.  I am only trying to get this God-awful action of the City Council set aside by the court.” 

Jason Nunnermacker, of the suit, stated “I am thankful that Mr. Salkin is looking out for the best interests of the City’s residents, it’s shameful and alarming that this City Council has turned their backs on those they took an oath to serve.” 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Councilwoman Greenman Files Suit

Former Councilwoman Rose Greenman has filed a civil suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Greeman is suing the City of Hackensack, Mayor John Labrosse, Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino, Richard Salkin, Art Koster, and Al Borelli in their individual and professional capacities.

Rose Greenman

In her complaint, Greenman alleges that she was discriminated against based upon her national origin, ethnicity, and Jewish faith, which led to her resignation from the council last month.

Despite Labrosse having led the ticket for the slate of candidates that swept into office in May of 2013, Greenman alleges that shortly after the election Labrosse told Greenman that he was “going to make [Plaintiff’s] life a living hell,” because she was “not a real Hackensackian, not a real American.” The claim is actually comical considering that Labrosse ran on the same slate as Greenman, in fact he led the ticket, just a few short months before the alleged comments were made.

Greenman goes on to state that Labrosse refused to allow a rabbi to be present at the swearing in ceremony because a rabbi would make the event “boring.” Greenman alleges that Labrosse has a dislike for members of the Jewish faith because he owned a fish market in Teaneck that failed as it was not kosher certified and the large Jewish population of Teaneck would therefore not shop at his establishment.

Greeman goes on to state that at a political function held at a church, Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino stated “the holy water will make you fizzle and melt into a puddle of scum.” On a separate event Canestrino allegedly criticized the display of Hanukkah decorations stating “who cares about Hanukkah anyway.”

Greenman goes on to accuse Canestrino of posing as an online forum poster “Ethel Rosenberg” and criticizing Greenman. Ethel Rosenberg was an infamous American-Jewish woman executed for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, “moreover, the online comment…questioned whether plaintiff was a ‘Manchurian candidate…’ planted…by the ‘KGB.”

Greenman accuses Canestrino and Labrosse of blocking Councilman David Sims (the second highest vote getter) from being Deputy Mayor due largely to his color. Greenman states that the pair repeatedly referred to Sims as “dumb” and “stupid” and stated they would rather have constituents (which she alleges they called “Niggers”) riot than name Sims the Deputy Mayor.

In August of 2014 the City Council passed a resolution ending the payment of health insurance benefits for council members and part-time workers. Greenman alleges that this was a retaliatory act for her attendance and vocal opposition of a bond ordinance (and bashing of the PBA) at a Department of Consumer Affairs hearing in Trenton. Greenman alleges that this was done to target her as she was the only member of the council affected by the decision as all other members of the council received tax payer funded insurance through their own employment, or their spouses’ employment at the city or board of education.

Greenman goes on to accuse Al Borelli of intimidation and improper use of city zoning laws to harass and intimidate her regarding her allegedly improper use of her apartment as a registered place of business. A violation cited by residents Richard Salkin and Jason Nunnermacker.

In an ironic twist of fate, Richard Salkin (who as a public official sued me for defamation) is named as a defendant and charged with defamation (by this public official) due to his comments calling Rose Greenman a “sociopath” and law breaker. In response, Salkin states “Rose Greenman’s lawsuit is beyond frivolous. I expect it will be dismissed in short order. As a taxpayer I can only hope that the City does not reward this nonsense with any kind of settlement.”

Requests for comment from Labrosse and Canestrino were unanswered.

Of the suit, resident Regina Dipasqua says “this complaint is the definition of frivolous…sanctions are in order for her and [her attorney] for wasting government resources on this.” Dipasqua says the case is full of he said-she said and “she has a real proof problem with these allegations.” Dipasqua went on that “I certainly hope nobody is going to consider settlement.”