HOBOKEN – And they say government works slowly? Well, not this time.
Hoboken City Hall has posted transcripts of tapes of Councilman Michael Russo’s 2009 lunch meeting with Solomon Dwek, an FBI informant posing as a real estate developer. The tapes were recently released on the Star-Ledger website after a book was published about the FBI's 2009 political corruption sting operation.
Now, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has called on the Hoboken City Council to act against Russo tonight.
Russo is running for re-election on May 10 against an opponent who is backed by Zimmer.
The council minority, made up of Zimmer’s allies, has called for Russo to be censured in a resolution this evening, as well as be removed from his positions as Council Vice President, Chair of the Finance Committee, and as a Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner.
“Councilman Russo has revealed his true self to Hoboken,” Zimmer said in a statement today. “His actions speak much louder than his words. Based on my review of the surveillance tapes and the transcripts, I believe there is no doubt that he has broken the people’s trust and is incapable of maintaining his position as Finance Chair, Commissioner on the Housing Authority, or his position as 3rd Ward Councilman.”
Russo will face off against challenger Greg Lincoln on May 10. For a story about the 3rd Ward race, click HERE.
“I recognize his continued tenure as councilman may ultimately be decided by 3rd Ward residents,” she said, “however I call on the City Council President [Beth Mason] to exercise her authority to remove the Councilman as Finance Chair and the City Council to exercise their authority to remove him as a Commissioner on the Housing Authority.”
Mason, who was previously a staunch ally of Russo on the council, has also come out and denounced Russo’s actions.
The leaked tape of Russo and Dwek, which was published on NJ.com, shows the men discussing a possible $5,000 donation to Russo's political campaigns, which would have been forwarded through a third party. Russo never accepted the payment, and has not been charged with any crime.
However, Russo does show awareness of the offer of the donation, and nods his head.
Russo’s campaign, which released a statement on Tuesday morning regarding the tapes, is hoping to move past this ordeal by holding a community meeting about parks later this week. However, the issue of the tape will be front and center at the April 6 City Council meeting tonight, as protestors are planning a demonstration at City Hall tonight at 6 p.m. before the meeting.
Coverage of Russo’s response can be found HERE.
Click HERE for the transcripts.
The transcripts cost $943.50 and were paid for from the Office of the Corporation Counsel budget, according to Juan Melli, city spokesperson. -- Ray Smith