HOBOKEN – Hoboken Council President Beth Mason has been criticized in the past by allies of her rival – Mayor Dawn Zimmer – for being aligned with Councilman Michael Russo. Now Mason has issued a statement denouncing Russo’s actions in a recently leaked surveillance tape which shows Russo meeting with FBI informant Solomon Dwek in 2009, the same informant who took down now imprisoned and former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano.
On the tape, Russo says he’s endorsing Mason for mayor (she ultimately lost that election). He also says that Mason sought his support, and he said he’d like to pick her three council-at-large candidates in return.
But it’s a different deal that Mason is criticizing.
Russo, who was not charged with any crime, is seen in the video discussing the possibility of receiving a $5,000 campaign contribution from Dwek, and also discusses the possibility of expediting projects for Dwek, who is posing as a New York based developer.
Russo never met with Dwek after the first meeting. Russo responded to the tape earlier today (see links below at www.hudsonreporter.com).
“Like many residents I am shocked and disturbed by the brazen way Councilman Russo conducted himself,” Mason said in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.
Russo is currently in an election fight against Greg Lincoln, who is supported by Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Mason is often seen by some as a staunch opponent of the mayor, and was voted council president the same day Russo was voted in as council vice president.
“Fortunately for the residents of the 3rd Ward, this video was released before the upcoming City Council election,” Mason said. “They can now judge Councilman Russo’s actions for themselves and cast their votes according to the totality of his service as 3rd Ward councilman and the issues that their ward and the city as a whole face today.”
Mason continued: “The behavior exhibited is completely counterproductive to the open, transparent, and inclusive government that I and so many other residents have fought to create in Hoboken. There is never a place in government, Hoboken or elsewhere, for this type of conduct.”
Mason also says that it’s not true that Russo chose her council candidates in 2009.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she says.
In the tape, Russo also refers to pay-to-play laws as “nonsense.”
“I could not disagree more with that statement,” Mason said. “The very essence of the meeting between him and Dwek is the exact reason that Hoboken needs such strong pay-to-play laws.”
Mason is now calling upon the U.S. Attorney’s Office to “immediately release the recordings” of her meeting with Dwek and all other recordings with Hoboken officials or political campaign representatives who met with Dwek.
The tapes of the Russo-Dwek meeting were released by Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin, two investigative reporters who covered the 2009 sting for The Star Ledger. The sources of the videos stemming from their book The Jersey Sting are not made entirely clear, as some transcripts and videos were reportedly received from both on- and off-the-record sources.
Want to see some fireworks? The City Council will meet Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 94 Washington St. -- Ray Smith