Mayor Rudy Garcia, armed with documents that he said would prove rival Brian Stack's disloyalty and allegedly-dishonest tactics, held a press conference Tuesday Sept. 12.
The press conference was held at the site of a political organization run by Stack, which had witnessed a similar crowd of people just a few days before on Sept. 9. On that day, Stack, a county freeholder, kicked off a movement to recall Garcia.
"You do need some morality in the office of mayor," said Garcia at his press conference Tuesday. "And it shows [in these documents] that Stack has none."
However, even after Garcia presented his evidence, many town residents crowded around him with posters reading "Do the city a favor and resign," and shouting questions like "What happened to my taxes?" Even with the dissenters, Garcia remained confident and announced that he had no intentions of resigning.
"I am the mayor," said Garcia to the number of screaming residents. "And I will continue to fight for the taxpayers of Union City."
Stack later answered these allegations saying, "I provide honest leadership, not corrupt leadership. [Garcia] can't hide from the fact that he has raised taxes a total of $8.75 million since he took office."
Speaking of taxes
To prove Stack's supposed dishonesty, Garcia referred to a resolution passing a settlement stipulation that was presented to the United States Bankruptcy Court and a letter signed by Stack blaming Revenue and Finance Commissioner Ralph Fraguela for the current tax increase.
The resolution was passed by the city's Board of Commissioners at their last meeting on Aug. 22 and concerned a real estate transaction involving 2200 Bergenline Ave., the new Union City First headquarters.
Garcia stated that Stack should not be renting a property that was just tax abated by the city. A tax abatement is when a developer is given tax relief for a number of years.
"This shows that Brian Stack has bad judgement," said Garcia. "And that he has no loyalty to the residents of Union City."
This settlement dates back to 1989, when North Jersey Secretarial Inc and Abnor Realty Inc. owned the property. The owners filed bankruptcy and were then unable to pay property taxes and interest from that time until the property was sold in January of 2000.
In this resolution, Garcia said that the city waived closed to $90,000 that was owed to the city in this settlement. "I did not agree with it and did not vote for it," said Garcia. "This shows a lack of respect to the taxpayers of Union City."
However, Stack argued that this transaction was not a tax abatement, but rather a tax appeal, which is when a developer is reimbursed for overpaying taxes. He also added that the incident occurred in 1989 and had nothing to do with him or Union City First.
"It had nothing to do with me," said Stack about the settlement, adding that he is renting from Annabella Diamonds Corp., the new owners who were not involved in the case. "Rudy Garcia should be the last person to criticize any kind of election property. Shame on Rudy Garcia."
Stack added, "[Garcia] is trying to distract the public from the fact that he raised taxes. In two years, Garcia has created one of the biggest deficits in the city's history."
Garcia also presented the letter signed by Stack blaming Fraguela, who was Revenue and Finance commissioner for most of the past seven years, for the tax increase.
"Now he is blaming me for the tax increase," Garcia said. "Before, he blamed Fraguela. Was he lying then, or is he lying now? Or does he just lie all the time?"
Garcia added, "It is really deplorable that people are so scared of the truth."
Stack said, "I've never ran from that letter. I do blame part of the deficit on the past administration." He added that the difference is that now Fraguela is trying to turn the situation around and is going in for state aid. Stack also referred to an investigation the Attorney General is conducting of Garcia and his former political organization.
Time for change
Close to 2,000 Union City residents crowded the corner of 22nd Street and Bergenline Avenue last Saturday to join County Freeholder Brian Stack in kicking off a recall movement against Mayor Rudy Garcia. The event took place at the new headquarters of Union City First, a Democratic organization chaired by Stack.
"What made this so great is that these were real Union City people," said Stack last week about the thousands who attended the event, pointing out that usually only city employees show up at such political events. "These were real homeowners and rent payers that are concerned about the quality of life in Union City." Stack said that he had added another 200 volunteers to the more than 1,000 he already had for Union City First.
"I want them to know that this is their headquarters," said Stack of the city's residents. The new headquarters is on a two-year lease and will be in use through the May, 2002 mayoral election. Union City First is the new political party that was created in June to replace the Union City Democratic Organization.
"I am running [the organization] completely different[ly]," said Stack. "Garcia basically ran it as a one-man rule, but I like to have my entire committee have input on what I am doing."
The idea of a recall movement against the mayor has been in the back of the city residents' minds since the first Union City First meeting in June where Stack announced his intentions to hundreds of townspeople.
Stack listed the city's financial problems and recent large tax increases as reasons for the recall.
How it works
So how does a recall election work?
"A recall election is an unusual election," said City Clerk Michael Licameli last week, explaining the difference between a regular election and a recall. "An official can be recalled at the top of the ballot and then re-elected at the bottom."
Those who want a recall election must first file a letter of intent with the city clerk's office. Stack said he intends to do so next week.
According to Licameli, a committee of three people has to file the letter of intent; however, the letter does not have to name reasons for the recall.
"The only requirement for the letter is that it has to name the official being recalled," said Licameli. He said that the official being recalled also has had to serve in his position for more than one year.
After the letter is filed, it is then passed along to the official being recalled. Then, that official is given 10 days to respond to the letter.
"Garcia can either answer [the letter] or resign," said Stack.
Then, pro-recall forces must obtain signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters from the last election. Licameli said that since the city holds non-partisan elections, any resident voter can sign the petition regardless of political party.
Along with the petitions for recall, a petition of nomination is also prepared that allows a candidate to be named as a successor. A person who wishes to run for office in a recall election must get the signatures of 15 percent of the registered voters in the last election. In this case, just as Stack plans to run for mayor in the recall election, Garcia can also have a petition of nomination signed and run against Stack.
"Petitions will not hit the street until the end of the month," said Stack.
The election occurs on a Tuesday between the 55th and 60th day of the approval of the petitions.
The person who is targeted for recall can simply resign, but Garcia remained confident last week in his position and stated that he has no intentions of resigning.
"I have a four-year term," said Garcia. "The people of Union City will decide who will be mayor."