McCann, 54, served on the Jersey City council from 1977 to 1981 and as mayor twice - from 1981 to 1985 and from 1989 to 1992.
McCann was removed from the mayor's office in 1992 after being convicted in federal court on federal charges of fraud and tax evasion (Chertoff, who is the current choice for director of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was the lead prosecutor in the case). The charges were not related to dealings in office. McCann served over two years in federal prison.
McCann spoke last week to the Jersey City Reporter about the recent elimination of his job at the Jersey City Incinerator Authority, and about his controversial role as adviser to Louis Manzo in Manzo's run for mayor last year.'You live by the sword, you die by the sword'
McCann on Jan. 4 found himself without a job when his boss, Oren Dabney, informed him that the position he had filled as special projects manager at the Jersey City Incinerator Authority since 2002 would be eliminated.
But McCann said that he was hardly upset.
"How could I take it personally?" McCann said. "I'm still not sure what the reason was for the position to be eliminated. If it was political, then how can I be upset? My motto, my creed, is, 'You live by the sword, you die by the sword.' I was telling someone recently that if was in charge, I would have fired me two months earlier."
McCann added, "I have had some conflicts with Oren Dabney in the past on work-related issues." He said that for instance, someone was mysteriously dumping trash on an empty lot on 10th Street in Downtown Jersey City. When no one could catch the perpetrator, McCann, who lived a few blocks from the site, took it upon himself to do so. As special projects manager, his job included checking on illegal dumping.
"On a Saturday," McCann said, "on my own time, I wait for whoever the person is, and I catch this guy with a truck dumping this stone and toxic fill on the lot. I report this to the JCIA, and I am told not to worry about the situation. I am then pulled off from this detail."
McCann claimed that the dumper was hired by a powerful developer, and that the JCIA did not want to offend the developer.
Dabney said last week that he was unaware of the incident and doesn't know what McCann is referring to.
Dabney said McCann's position was simply no longer needed in the JCIA, and that the matter was not political. Dabney said he is in the "business of good government." Adviser to Manzo
Gerald McCann was a political consultant to Assemblyman Louis Manzo when Manzo ran in the November special election for mayor. This may have hurt Manzo, since successful challenger Jerramiah Healy, in campaign literature, emphasized McCann's role. Manzo's loss by over 2,200 votes to Healy was attributed to what some called "The McCann Factor."
McCann, however, had his own ideas on why Manzo lost the election.
"I think Healy ran a better campaign," McCann said. "He ran a campaign where he courted the white vote." McCann said Healy won several of the wards in the city that had a predominantly white population.
"You look at how Willie Flood and L. Harvey Smith split the black man's vote," McCann said. "Manzo was trying to be the candidate for all the people, and that didn't work."
McCann also said Manzo's campaign failed because Manzo depended on the advice of people whom McCann said "contributed to campaigns but have not actually organized a political campaign."
"Manzo started depending on the advice of one woman who worked on Cunningham's 1989 mayoral campaign, which he lost, and I let Manzo know what I thought of this woman's ability and he said he would take care of it," said McCann. "Also, Manzo's brother Ron was trying to advise his brother, and that's when I started to step back from my role as political consultant."
But was McCann involved in the distribution of the infamous naked photos of Jerramiah Healy seemingly drunk on his porch? The pictures wound up on a website and got national press attention, putting an embarrassing spotlight on the dirty politics in Jersey City. (Healy later explained that he drank some beers that night and was lured outside by someone making a ruckus in order to embarrass him publicly.)
McCann said: "I only found out in the papers about the young man who took the pictures with a cell phone camera, and that he and his girlfriend were walking home late one night and the girlfriend pointed out who it was that was on the porch." McCann went to say that he got a copy of the pictures from a "friend of a friend of a friend" of the girlfriend's uncle, and that he showed only "five or six" people close to himself.
McCann also said that so far, Jerramiah Healy is doing "a good job" as mayor, and that if the next mayoral election (this coming May) were held next week, Healy would have enough power and backing to win re-election.
McCann defended himself against the negative connotations his name seems to bring about, saying that he helped Manzo rather than hurt him. He said Manzo still, in a field of 11 candidates, got more votes and finished better than in 2001 when McCann wasn't working for him and he ran in a smaller field. McCann's plans
In the years since prison, McCann has tried running for various offices in Jersey City, even though as a convicted felon, he is prohibited from doing so. Courts have barred his candidacy when he tried to run.
At the present time, he said that he tells people who ask if he's going to run for an office, "I am not interested."
"People have to come to me with a very good plan," he said. "I know how to run campaigns, and many times it's better to wait and see who has a serious chance of doing something. I don't jump into any campaign just because someone is running. I don't want to be the person who is working harder than the candidate."
McCann also plans to concentrate on real estate ventures that he has always pursued, and he likes spending time with his family. He says he enjoys reading at least a book and a half per week. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org