HOBOKEN – Two Hoboken residents and a former employee of former Mayor Peter Cammarano’s campaign claimed in a lawsuit provided to The Reporter on Tuesday that Cammarano’s election fund left them out to dry to the tune of thousands of dollars.
The three plaintiffs are represented by attorney Louis Zayas, based in North Bergen.
The lawsuit alleges that Cammarano needed money from the private sector during his 2009 mayoral campaign, and he “[allegedly] created a Ponzi scheme to sustain his electoral race for mayor.” A month after Cammarano took office in 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for taking $25,000 in “illicit cash campaign contributions” from an undercover FBI informant. Cammarano has since been released to a halfway house.
“Using his official position as city councilman, Mayor Cammarano approached Plaintiff [Luis] Jimenez, who owned and operated a supermarket in Hoboken, to induce Mr. Jimenez to accept campaign checks issued by Mayor Cammarano’s Election Campaign to various vendors and cash them,” the complaint alleges. “Mayor Cammarano promised that as a ‘city councilman’ [which he was at the time], his checks would not bounce.”
The lawsuit alleges that approximately $35,000 in checks were deemed uncollectable because the campaign did not have sufficient funds to cover them.
A second plaintiff, Florence Amato, loaned Cammarano $20,000, and allegedly only received “$4,000 in part satisfaction of her $20,000 loan.” Amato is a longtime political player in Hoboken, whose late husband, Andrew Amato, served as 4th Ward councilman for many years.
Bryan Walensky, Cammarano’s former field director, was in charge of hiring people to work for the campaign.
“During [the campaign], [Cammarano] asked Walensky to pay the members of the team using [Walensky’s company’s] company checks, because Mayor Cammarano had run out of money and [said] that he will deposit money into [the company’s] account from the loan he received from Mrs. Amato,” according to the suit. The suit states that Walensky paid over $14,000 from his company’s account, but Cammarano allegedly didn’t deposit the money into the account, and $6,000 bounced, and Walensky was hit with return check fees.
The lawsuit states that Walensky went bankrupt, lost his company, and is still in debt.
The plaintiffs are now going after the city of Hoboken for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fee and costs of suit, and “such other and further relief that the court deems equitable and just,” according to the suit. The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial.
A copy of the suit was sent to the city, and this story will be updated if the city provides any comment. -- Ray Smith