"We view this as just part of the whole review of the legislature's 'Christmas Tree' grant process and we are cooperating fully," said Joe Lauro, spokesperson for Union City.
Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie launched a federal investigation into the entire New Jersey legislature's use of "Christmas Tree" grants, which are last minute items legislators slip into the state budget toward the end of the budget year to fund special-interest items such as road improvements and school funding in their districts.
The investigation is looking into whether any legislators or their families benefited personally from the grants.
The U.S. Attorney's office did not respond to phone calls from the Reporter.
"There were two subpoenas delivered," said Joe Lauro, spokesperson for Union City, "one to the Union City Day Care Center operation for records pertaining to the grants, and one to Brian Stack's assembly office. Not to Brian [Stack]. It didn't go to him directly."
According to local reports, along with Stack's subpoena, the records involving millions of dollars in special grants were also subpoenaed from the offices of Senator Nicholas Scutari of Union and Senator Joseph Coniglio of Bergen County.
Two sets of $100,000 grants
Earlier this month, inquiries were made into two $100,000 grants - one that went towards repairs to the 47th Street Union City Day Care Center run by the assemblyman's estranged wife Katia Stack, and another for the renovations to Frank X. Clark Park that shares the property with the same day care center.
A previous subpoena from a state investigation, not the "Christmas Tree" probe, which is a federal investigation, had been issued in December in regards to the $100,000 grant to the day care center.
The funds had been used for repairs to the center after a water main break in 2004 badly damaged several classrooms. The grant, which was awarded in 2005, went to pay for the repairs.
The suspicion among the Union City administration is that the subpoena stemmed from a lawsuit that the mayor of Bogota filed last year against several legislators who hold two elected offices.
The second $100,000 grant, awarded in 2005, went towards renovations to Frank X. Clark Day Care Park, which is on the same grounds of the day care, but does not belong it.
The grant was in addition to another $400,000, which was contributed from community developers and municipal funds, to make state mandated upgrades to the park, which is open to the public, as well as the day care center. The additional money is not part of the investigation.
"No one benefited from this other than the people who use the day care center and the people who use the playground," said Lauro. "All the money went to capital projects."
Special grants investigation
The "Christmas tree" items are grants typically earmarked for projects in legislators' home districts such as road construction, schools, or non-profit programs, and handed out toward the end of the year.
The distributions of these grants, which are distributed by lawmakers from both political parties, have been called into question as to whether the money awarded was based on need and not steered towards organizations that would directly benefit the lawmaker or their family.
The federal investigation into the "Christmas Tree" items has been looking at a number of lawmakers including Sen. Wayne Bryant (D-Camden), who once headed the state Senate Appropriations Committee.
Prosecutors have recently subpoenaed three years of records from the Governor's Office, involving nearly $1 billion in these special interest grants, and several other subpoenas have gone out to members of the state Senate and the General Assembly, which includes Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny of Hoboken. Jessica Rosero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org