Since he and the HCDO have not always been on speaking terms, it seemed strange to many that he would make an appearance, and started the spin doctors pondering the possibility of some sort of deal.
Fulop loyalists claim the appearance was designed to taunt his political enemies, not mend fences with them.
From every indication, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy - the chairman of the HCDO - is fearful Fulop will run for mayor in 2009.
Fulop's push for an ethics referendum is seen by some as the first volley in what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates. Fulop is using the referendum as an early platform that puts his name before the public in a way that could generate votes citywide in 2009.
Healy has apparently been doing everything possible to derail a Fulop mayoral run.
Perhaps Healy's greatest fears center on a possible political marriage between Fulop and the county's other most prominent political prince, state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Invincible in Union City, Stack has tried to spread his influence to other parts of the county, but lacked real strength outside the 33rd elective District in the primary elections this past June. This could change with Fulop as his ally.
Healy can deal with the Fulop problem in several ways. He can divert Fulop to another elected office. He can also try to weaken Stack's influence.
While many of the lords of political power in the HCDO such as state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and County Executive Tom DeGise seem willing to back Fulop for a possible run against incumbent Rep. Albio Sires in next spring's Democratic primary for the U.S. Congress, Healy apparently is trying to lure Sires back into the HCDO.
This would weaken Stack in North Hudson, since Sires along with Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner are Stack's staunchest allies.
While it would seem in Healy's interest to back Fulop against Sires, Healy apparently fears Fulop will run for mayor anyway, regardless of what deal he brokers today.
Stack against Sacco all over again?
The Healy-Fulop skirmishes, of course, are being played against a much larger conflict that has Stack pitted against Sacco.
Although reports keep emerging about peace deals, the ill feelings generated during last June's Democratic Primary just won't heal.
The latest outbreak of political rage came as a result of Sacco's attempt to block the reappointment of Stack associate, Commissioner Chris Irizarry, to the North Hudson Community Action Corporation, a non-profit health care agency.
North Bergen's legal department even went to court to stop the vote, asking the Superior Court to shut down the NHCAC's board until its membership could be reviewed to determine if it is legally constructed. The Sacco team even proposed shutting down NHCAC's operations - which means loss of heat and other assistance in the weeks prior to Christmas.
Even the Grinch who stole Christmas doesn't seem nearly as heartless as this.
Fortunately, Superior Court Judge Maurice Galipoli saw through the political ruse and put off any rash action until early next year. Meanwhile, Sacco suffered a significant political setback when commissioners from all but two Hudson County municipalities voted in favor of Irizzary's contract. One town's representatives, abstained leaving North Bergen to look remarkable Grinch-like in its vote against him.
Irizarry modified the proposal for his employment contract to give the board more incentive to approve it, including his $139,000-per-year salary. He cut the request from three to two years, with a buyout clause that would require the board to pay him only for six months if they choose to remove him rather than to pay the customary year's salary.
The conflict over control of the NHCAC actually predates the Sacco-Stack battle. Sacco, along with Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, tried to install Tom Calvanico, former executive director of the Hudson County Improvement Authority, into the post. Turner, Sires, and others resisted the move, eventually leading to Irizzary's appointment.
NHCAC is a political goldmine since it provides many social service programs that have a direct impact on the public and generate a significant appreciation at the ballot box later.
While North Bergen is disputing the current makeup of the board that controls the NHCAC, this is partly because mayors have less influence over the operations than they would like.
This is largely their own fault since many of the programs NHCAC offers used to be under the auspices of the North Hudson Council of Mayors - which still offers one or two programs to the public.
Most of the programs were designed by Ridge Applegate when he worked for the mayors council, but neglect by the mayors over the years eventually caused NHCAC to pick up the management and control of the programs.
"These programs generated a lot of jobs," one political observer said.
The loss of influence meant that mayors had less patronage to dole out to supporters.
Who will be freeholder chairman?
While it still uncertain if Stack will mount a challenge for control of the freeholder board, the battle for chairmanship is heating up within the ranks of the HCDO.
Current Chairman Thomas Liggio, of North Bergen and Secaucus, has expressed the desire to serve in that post again. But Freeholder Jeff Dublin is apparently also being considered.
This could pose some serious problems in the near future if reports are true that state Senator-elect Sandra Cunningham intends to replace Dublin in next June's primary.
Liggio is liked even by those who oppose Liggio's mayor, Sacco.
"His decisions over the last year have been largely free of politics," one freeholder said. "I would like to see him remain in that post, even if it means putting up with Nick Sacco."
Meanwhile, reports that Bayonne Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico may be dumped are apparently wrong. Both Healy and DeGise had come out in support of her re-election.
Delle Donna maintains his innocence
Reports claim that Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna will not plead guilty to charges that have been brought against him.
He has told several key people that he is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.
But Delle Donna's legal woes may leave his mayoral seat up for grabs.
Perhaps Delle Donna can recoup his good name and his political career, in a similar fashion to former Guttenberg Mayor Nicholas Cicco, who was cleared of charges brought against him in 1989. Unfortunately, Cicco lost his bid to retain the mayoral seat.
Among those rumored as possible mayoral replaces are Councilmen Gerald Drasheff and Frank Criscione. Also rumored is Brian Guaschino, one-time state Assembly aide to Sal Vega.