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.” 

1 comment:

  1. You could at least identify Salkin and Nunnermacker as allies of the Zisa family, and point out Salkin advised the school board not to pay $1 million for a school resource officer.

    What is the "$16 million windfall" based on?