In March 2011, two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists released their book, ”The Jersey Sting,” describing how, in 2009, FBI informant Solomon Dwek, posing as a real-estate developer, offered bribes to New Jersey politicians. As a result of this sting operation, Hoboken’s own mayor Peter Cammarano was convicted and jailed for accepting $25,000 in bribes.
Also revealed in the book was the fact that current Hoboken 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo had also met with the FBI informant in 2009, and discussed accepting potentially illegal payments as well as helping expedite Dwek’s developer variances. In the two years since that meeting, Russo has never publicly disclosed that he met with Dwek. Councilman Russo claims that the meeting was “public knowledge,” but has failed to provide any evidence to support this claim.
After this information came to light, I issued a press release demanding an explanation. Reacting to the release, the Hudson Reporter contacted Councilman Russo who stated “...I made it very clear to Mr. Dwek that I would not accept cash contributions, and there was no quid pro quo. No bribe was discussed.” The same day, Hoboken Patch reported the councilman stating that “...there was no talk of a bribe. Anyone who portrays that is lying.”
A few days later, Councilman Russo’s claims were revealed as lies when the authors publicly released the complete FBI video tapes of the councilman’s meeting with Dwek. The tapes clearly show our councilman agreeing to help his new friend, and tells him who to make out the check to: “Russo for Hoboken.” He even appears to agree when Mr. Dwek mentions concealing his identity in the process.
Not only do the tapes show our 3rd Ward councilman discussing accepting potentially illegal payments from Dwek, they show him complaining about anti-corruption Pay-to-Play laws and how they force him to make “these shady kind of deals” with developers. The FBI tapes show Councilman Russo boasting how he hand-picked Beth Mason’s campaign slate when she was running for Mayor in 2009 in order to give him ”complete control” over the city council. The FBI tapes also show him explaining how he obtained an apartment for a Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner and kept him from being evicted in return for political favors.
Councilman Russo has asked to be judged on his actions. His abuses of his authority as a sitting councilman have shattered any trust that he once held.
How can we trust someone who circumvents the law by brokering backroom deals with developers? How can we trust someone who is clearly willing to conspire to election fraud by concealing his developer donors? How can we trust someone who tells a different story every time new facts come to light? We can’t. And where there is lack of trust, there is lack of effective government.
As your councilperson, I will fight for honest government. I will fight against corruption, patronage, and overspending. I will fight to represent everyone in the 3rd Ward.