Councilman Steven Fulop accused the Healy administration and its City Council supporters on Wednesday of trying to smear him by allegedly listing a phony campaign contribution to him from a city vendor on an affidavit, a move he called “illegal” and worthy of an investigation by the state Attorney General.
By the time the fireworks erupted at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, nearly all of the 60-plus residents who stuck out the first three hours had left.
It wasn’t until the end of the meeting that an angry exchange broke out between the Ward E representative and the rest of the council members over a no-bid contract and an apparently dubious campaign contribution.
“Lying on a government affidavit document is criminal.” – Steven Fulop
Previously, Certified, which has made political contributions to Mayor Jerramiah Healy and several candidates who have been allied with him, was contracted to receive $100,000 for this work. Earlier resolutions to increase Certified’s contract had been withdrawn by the Healy administration.
On those occasions, Fulop noted that Certified had received a no-bid contract and said the resolution to increase its contract by an additional $50,000 violated the spirit, if not the letter, of Jersey City’s “pay to play” law. “Pay to play” laws disallow contractors who donate certain amounts of money to a political entity from being hired later by that entity.
According to campaign contribution records, Certified most recently gave Healy a $1,500 donation for his possible reelection bid in 2013. Fulop will likely run against him.
The donation list also included a $500 donation certified to Fulop that the councilman said was untrue.
Mistake or set-up?
Fulop was apparently blindsided Wednesday when the council circulated the campaign contribution list that included the $500 donation. The list was not attached to a copy of the resolution regarding Certified’s change order, as it should have been, but to a completely different resolution.
City Clerk Robert Byrne took responsibility for the mix-up, which he said was “a mistake.”
But Fulop angrily called it a “set-up” and “smear tactic” meant to discredit him.
“This [contribution] is manufactured,” said Fulop. “This stinks and you guys try to cover it up. This is one of the sneakiest, most deceitful things that I have seen in the six years that I have been here.”
Other members of the council – heatedly talking over one another – tried to distance themselves from the matter.
“The document speaks for itself,” said Council President Peter Brennan.
The next day Mayor Healy responded to Fulop’s outburst, saying, “As we have stated before, there is no pay-to-play violation as this is a state contract with a state designated vendor. Once again, Fulop is making malicious assertions that are based on erroneous information. Certified Products is a small business in Jersey City, who for more than 25 years has been doing business with the city and employing more than a dozen local residents. During that time, they have made donations to many organizations and political causes.”
He added, “Fulop’s accusation is not only wrong, but in our opinion, is malevolent and hypocritical as he solicited a donation from this vendor while at the same time maligning others for doing just that. To attack this administration and his colleagues on the City Council by screaming from the council dais was not only uncalled for and unprofessional, but also shows Fulop’s true character of blaming others for his own actions. This is behavior we would expect from a petulant child, not from an elected councilman with higher aspirations. This calls into question his emotional stability.”
Fulop responded on Thursday, “It is clear that Team Healy will resort to just about anything to keep their contracts flowing. After I protested this contract in the strongest terms possible for three months it should be clear to anyone that Certified Products would not support me nor would I want their support. It is obvious to any reasonable, objective person that this was an attempt at a setup – and a poor one at that, which I caught.”
“Since neither Healy nor Certified Products will ever be able to produce a cashed contribution check despite an affidavit they signed otherwise,” Fulop added, “I am calling on Healy to revoke this contract that his council puppets approved, as lying on a government affidavit document is criminal. When Team Healy fails to act, and I fully expect that it will, I will call on the state Attorney General to take action.”
Certified did not return calls from the Reporter. But one company representative told two other media outlets that although a $500 campaign contribution was made to Fulop, the check was not cashed.
Charter school discussion set off tiff
Ironically, the tiff about Certified was set off after debate about whether resolutions should be withdrawn if relevant questions by council members have not been answered.
Fulop agreed to pull a resolution backing a charter school proposal after Councilwomen Kalimah Ahmad and Viola Richardson raised concerns about who would be running the school.
Fulop then suggested that the resolution regarding the change order to Certified also be pulled since his own questions had not been answered about the company’s campaign contributions to current members of the City Council.
When Brennan pointed out that “there was an attachment” to the Certified resolution, Fulop began looking for that attachment – and found it affixed to a different resolution.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.