Rock and rollers for decades have been obsessed with truth, whether it was Eric Clapton in his 1970 song, “Tell the Truth,” or John Lennon in “Just Give Me Some Truth.” Even Mark Twain pointed out the wisdom of truth telling: “When in doubt, tell the truth.”
It may not surprise the general public that few Hudson County politicians have taken this lesson to heart, a fact that was experienced several times over the last month as reporters from the Hudson Reporter contacted local leaders to talk about issues vital to the public good.
State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack flatly refused to reveal whether he and his commissioners are receiving health benefits, requiring the Hudson Reporter to file an Open Public Records Act request – which they have not responded to.
Because of certain state aid received by Union City, elected officials there can’t receive public health benefits under a reform package established by Gov. Christopher Christie after a scandal in Paterson highlighted abuses in the past. Towns like Union City that fit certain criteria are required to get the blessing of the Department of Community Affairs first.
Union City apparently did so, but some political observers believe this was orchestrated by Christie to benefit Stack, a key ally in Hudson County, and that this was all supposed to be hush-hush, even though taxpayers ultimately paid the bill. When the DCA and Stack were both asked by a reporter whether they got an exemption, neither party would answer.
The alleged behind-the-scenes deal making smacks of bad state policy, except when you realize that Stack may be starting a political war against the Hudson County Democratic Organization in 2013 that could cripple the Democratic ability to get out the vote in the same year Christie – a Republican – is running for reelection.
Meanwhile, Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop apparently failed to take seriously the questions raised by the Jersey City Reporter last week as to whether or not he violated his own pay-to-play law when professionals connected to firms doing business with the city and the school district apparently raised money for his campaign.
Thinking that there was no basis for a story, the Fulop camp simply wouldn’t comment rather than explain in detail why this was not true, and will likely face serious questioning on the campaign trail from Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is running against Fulop next May.
Fulop is lucky that Dan Levin decided to run for Ward E rather than for mayor, because as the campaign unfolds, people might have seen him as an alternative to Fulop. With only two main players facing off against his each, voters are going to have to choose between Fulop and Healy. But the questions about pay-to-play may make some potential running mates such as Councilwoman Viola Richardson think twice about joining the Fulop campaign.
Although Fulop has a significant lead in money, it is rumored that Healy’s connections to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker might well offset that advantage, especially if the unions – who are not particularly trustful of Fulop – decide Healy can actually win.
Sources in Bayonne have confirmed at least part of former North Bergen DPW Superintendent James Wiley’s allegation that Wiley and others had been ordered to help out in area political campaigns.
One source said Wiley and others showed up in Bayonne to help in Mayor Mark Smith’s 2008 campaign, but local campaign workers didn’t know what to do with them.
“We couldn’t send him door to door,” said one source, speaking of James Wiley’s appearance. “He would have scared people.”
James Wiley apparently unveiled a host of charges about alleged corrupt political activities in North Bergen after he had pleaded guilty two weeks ago to using public workers for repairs and chores around his home.
Rumor has it that federal prosecutors have offered West New York Mayor Felix Roque a deal: plead guilty and resign from office, and neither he nor his son will get any jail time. Roque and son were charged earlier this year with allegedly hacking into the website of political opponents – a site some claim was a fake to start with.
Federal officials apparently have given Roque until November to agree or the deal is off.
Roque has to choose whether or not to take the deal, which would severely impact his medical practice. If he pleads guilty, his practice would be prohibited from taking Medicare and Medicaid payments for the duration of his probation. If he fights it, he risks going to jail. Even if he son is to take blame and testify that Roque knew nothing about the alleged hacking, Roque risks being convicted or having his son go to jail for up to five years, utterly ruining his future plans.
Stack vs. the unions
Police and municipal union workers are gearing up to take on Mayor Stack in Union City. Although a center of union activity, and the city where the murder of Jimmy Hoffa was allegedly planned, Union City was not named in tribute to organized labor, but rather after the combining of several municipalities.
The unions hope to use the political process to get what they can’t get over the bargaining table. But it could backfire. Stack is the most popular mayor since Bill Musto