HOBOKEN -- Mayor Dawn Zimmer explained Wednesday evening how it came to light recently that former Mayor Anthony Russo was still receiving health benefits from the city even though he was supposed to have been removed in 2006.
Zimmer said that after the city's business administrator, Arch Liston, got his job, he reviewed city records and discovered that Russo and another former city employee were still getting health benefits they should not have been.
Zimmer declined to release the name of the other person, but said that the person was not an elected official.
Zimmer said that after Liston did his research, the city had conversations with Russo and the other person to make them aware that they were not eligible for the benefits. Russo was given time to appeal the determination, which he did. He lost the appeal and was removed at the beginning of this month.
Zimmer said she was not sure why an earlier check by former state-appointed Hoboken finance official Judy Tripodi failed to turn up the information, as it did with a handful of other former employees who were unfairly receiving city benefits.
The mayor said that the city is also doing a review, as the state normally does, to check marital documents and other information from current city employees to make sure everyone is receiving health benefits legally.
Wednesday morning, Russo's son, Councilman Michael Russo, who is up for re-election, questioned the timing of Zimmer's communication to the council about the issue.
In response, Zimmer said it was simply" a matter of timing" that Anthony Russo was removed in early March, and she subsequently let the council know.
"This has been an issue," she said. "He is a public figure. It's my obligation. I didn't put out a big press release. I advised the council through a communicaton."
When asked whether the city would do an investigation to see how Russo was able to keep getting the benefits, when it was revealed publicly at the time that they would be canceled, Zimmer seemed to indicate that the city wouldn't be looking for a culprit.
"We've done the review," she said. "It's the responsibility of the business administrator and mayor at that time. From what we can tell, he remained on the system. He was never taken off."
Will the city try to recoup the money?
"That is something we're reviewing right now," Zimmer said.
Mayor Russo was treated successfully for brain and lung cancer at the end of his mayoral term in 2001.