Over the course of four hours punctuated by chanting, multiple altercations, police expulsions, and an extended recess to restore order, the board voted 5-2 to end Carmelo’s leadership and install its consultant Richard Fox as acting director.
If the firing holds up, it will mark the culmination of a long conflict between Housing Authority’s paid director Garcia, who supported by the old Hudson County Democratic machine and many of his tenants, and most of the seven unpaid commissioners on the board, most of whom are allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Various facets of the termination process and the meeting itself were challenged by attendees, including City Council members, who claimed they were illegal under New Jersey state law, federal law, and the Constitution. Garcia and his lawyer Louis Zayas, who was not present at the meeting, have vowed to challenge his termination in court.
A representative from HUD said last week that Garcia would have to have 120 days’ notice to be fired. According to the resolution, Garcia’s contract provides that his employment may be terminated for reasons other than for cause “with not less than 120 days notice.” As such, the resolution instructs the Housing Authority CFO Emil Kotherithara to cut Garcia a check for four months of salary for his next scheduled pay day ($55,000 at his current pay grade). Garcia said he will continue to serve until he has received this payment.
At least 250 residents of the housing projects marched up Third Street from 221 Jackson St. to City Hall, carrying signs and shouting slogans such as “we can, we will, watch us,” and “this is our home.” Upon arriving at City Hall, the residents, along with a smattering of Housing Authority officials, press, and other attendees, easily filled the council chambers to capacity, leaving scores of disappointed public housing residents outside in the foyer of City Hall.
Before the resolution to terminate Garcia was even presented, his supporters began interrupting nearly every statement Wefer made, chanting “Let them in” and “It’s not fair.”
Hoboken Police Chief Edelmiro Garcia warned that the meeting would have to be closed due to public safety. Subsequently, a man in a white polo shirt was ejected by police after he allegedly taunted, then put his cellphone in the face of, Garcia’s wife. Garcia later identified the man, who is a Zimmer supporter.
After this incident, the meeting went into recess and the council chambers were evacuated.
Ninety minutes after its scheduled start, the meeting began again and was completed. However, other attendees were subsequently ejected. To read more details, see this weekend’s Hoboken Reporter, or come back to hudsonreporter.com starting Sunday.