JERSEY CITY – By a vote of 5 to 4, the Jersey City Council Wednesday night rejected two Jersey City municipal court appointments recommended by Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy.
Healy had recommended Carlo Abad to be the chief judge for the Jersey City Municipal Court and Radames “Ray” Velazquez to be a full-time judge for the Municipal Court. Both men had also received the support of the Hudson County assignment judge, who agreed with Healy’s recommendations.
The decision denied Abad, who is Filipino American, the chance to make history as the first Asian to serve as chief judge in Jersey City.
But City Council members Steven Fulop, David Donnelly, Diane Coleman, Nidia Lopez, and Rolando Lavarro Jr. all voted against Abad and Velazquez, arguing that they wanted more input in the judicial selection process and felt it was inappropriate for Healy to make these important appointments just three months before a municipal election.
Healy is running for re-election in May and is being challenged by Fulop. City Council members Coleman, Lopez, and Lavarro are allied with Fulop and are also running for re-election on his slate.
“In a city of 250,000 residents there are probably many qualified people who should be considered for these vacancies,” Fulop said Wednesday night, explaining his vote against Velazquez. “And when we keep seeing the same people getting appointed again and again, it smacks of political patronage.”
Velazquez has previously been appointed to the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Jersey City Council. Last year he was appointed to be one of Healy’s deputy mayors, a position he resigned from abruptly.
Lavarro – who is ironically the first Filipino American to serve on the Jersey City Council – voted against Abad and accused Healy of playing “ethnic politics.”
After the vote, Velazquez declined to comment, noting that it would be inappropriate for him to make a statement on a judicial appointment decision. Abad and a disappointed group of supporters left City Hall Tuesday immediately after the vote without commenting.
“The Council's rejection of these two highly qualified candidates for judgeships…is an ugly illustration of how politics has overtaken certain members of our City Council,” Healy said Thursday morning. “Not only have they deprived the Municipal Court and our community of two tremendous public servants, but they have also deprived our Asian community, and in particular our Filipino community, from a history-making moment with the appointment of the first Filipino and Asian Chief Judge of the Jersey City Municipal Court.” – E. Assata Wright