BREAKING: Hoboken residents file lawsuit to stop public housing director from running for New Jersey Assembly
Apr 11, 2013 | 3702 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carmelo Garcia - on the hotseat again.
Carmelo Garcia - on the hotseat again.
HOBOKEN AND BEYOND -- Running Hoboken's federally funded public housing projects, including 1,373 units of affordable and low-income housing, is an important job. But is it a job that can be done at the same time as fulfilling the duties of a state legislator?

A group of Hoboken residents says they don't believe so - and they've filed a lawsuit, according to a statement received Thursday.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia would run for state Assembly on a legislative ticket with incumbent State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.

Garcia has said that he believes he can do the full-time paid job of executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority at the same time as serving as a part-time as state legislator.

But Thursday morning, a group of Hoboken residents announced a legal challenge to Garcia's candidacy.

In a statement emailed to the press on Thursday, they said:

"We are concerned that Mr. Garcia, who will earn $172,500.00 in 2014 as HHA’s Executive Director, cannot adequately fulfill his duties to the residents of the Housing Authority as full time Executive Director while also effectively representing the 33rd District’s residents in Trenton as an Assemblyman, where he will earn an additional public salary of $49,000.00. We deserve competent, vigorous and focused representation, not public officials who double-dip, padding their public salaries, pensions and benefits.

"The law and public policy are clear: Executive Directors of federally funded programs, such as housing authorities, should not be permitted to run for partisan public office because of the inherent conflicts of interest that arise from running a federal program and serving as a partisan elected official. Mr. Garcia should not be permitted to exploit a perceived loophole in the law for his personal and financial gain. We respectfully ask this Court to enter an Order declaring Mr. Garcia ineligible to run for partisan elected office."

Garcia said recently that he can legally run for the office. He said that his job is not 100 percent federally funded, and thus, being an assemblyman at the same time would not violate the Hatch Act.

Politically, Garcia has been under fire since even before he announced he would run for Assembly. The majority of the HHA's seven-member unpaid Board of Commissioners, allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, has been trying to lessen Garcia's power recently. The HHA has, for years, been the site of a power struggle among various political factions, with votes and contracts in the balance.

In addition, Zimmer ally Ravi Bhalla has announced he will run for Assembly, but has not said if he will do so as a Democrat or as an Independent. Getting Garcia off the ballot would certainly give Bhalla a boost.

The statement to the court was signed by Hoboken residents Jerome Abernathy, James Castiglione, Avi Ohring, Sheilah Scully, and Vasudev Trivedi. They are not elected municipal officials or members of the housing board.

The kerfuffle may make tonight's Hoboken Housing Authority meeting even more interesting than expected.

So as always, watch for updates and more breaking news.

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