HOBOKEN - Council President Beth Mason has re-introduced legislation requesting copies of emails from City Communications Director Juan Melli and Mayor Dawn Zimmer's Confidential Aide Dan Bryan sent to and from the local media and bloggers. Her intent is to see if the mayor's communications staffers have been sending out political information on taxpayer time.
The issue is on the agenda for the Wednesday, May 18 council meeting.
The resolution states that "the Council finds that the city's public communications, including the City's website, have become highly politicized and therefore constitute an inappropriate and wasteful use of taxpayer funds."
The mayor's opponents have a 5-4 majority on the council until July 1, when Councilwoman-elect Jen Giattino will take over as a representative of the 6th Ward for Councilman Nino Giacchi, swinging the council to 5-4 in favor of the mayor.
That means the current council majority has three meetings to push through any anti-Zimmer legislation without much meaningful opposition.
The last time the legislation was introduced, in early April, Mason asked for all emails sent to and from Melli and Bryan to be released starting from Jan. 1, 2010.
The original cost of the request would have been approximately $200,000, as it would have required an attorney to review approximately 35,000 e-mails, according to Corporation Counsel Mark Tabakin.
Mason thinks Tabakin was not telling the truth. She says in her proposed resolution that the claim "appears to dramatically exaggerated, if not downright false."
The new legislation is amended to include all emails to and from 12 people, mostly local reporters and bloggers, from Jan 1, 2010.
If the resolution passes, the emails from Melli and Bryan to and from members of the local press, bloggers, as well as three political campaigns, will be released to the council. The council "shall treat these emails as confidential and shall discuss them only either in closed executive session or in a committee meeting closed to the public," according to the resolution. The resolution also states that if "any specific emails are deemed worthy of public release or discussion by determination of the majority of the council," then the council will discuss the e-mail with the city attorney before discussing them in open session. - Ray Smith