Hoboken Housing Authority director fired in heated meeting Monday, but will be paid $55K over next 4 months
Aug 05, 2014 | 2626 views | 6 6 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOBOKEN—The Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners – the agency that oversees the city’s low-income public housing neighborhood -- voted Monday night to terminate its contract with Executive Director Carmelo Garcia. The vote was taken in a charged and contentious special meeting at City Hall.

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.

Comments
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puzzledone
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August 08, 2014
If this was unconstitutional because not everyone who wanted to be attend could be accommodated, please explain why the Supreme Court and both houses of US Congress limit the number of attendees, and make no attempt to accommodate others (or even allow for recording devices.
VoteHoboken
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August 05, 2014
If Carmelo Garcia was not at the meeting then someone did a killer impersonation of him in all the video.

I don't think there is any way around having a contract that includes you can be terminated with cause after 120 days and you are given 120 days.

The usual anti-Administration Councilpersons Mason, Russo, Castellano were there doing their thing to try and hold on to those HHA votes they will need to stay in office.
assilem
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August 05, 2014
For a group of railroaded and discriminated individuals the crowd who were not allowed to the public meeting in violation of the law were remarkable civil. The Board continued their abuse of democratic process with two American flags right outside the room and one at the municipal building.
truthmeter
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August 05, 2014
Why do you think the meeting was held illegally?

The Open Public Meetings Act doesn't seem to require that everyone who wants to attend a meeting be accommodation notwithstanding the limits of the venue. Are you referring to a different law or did you simply misunderstand the OPMA?
assilem
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August 05, 2014
No recess was called and the meeting was help illegally. An "decisions" are illegal and invalid. Garcia continues to serve under the terms of his contract while board removal needs to be pursued.
recallbethmason
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August 05, 2014
Thank you to HHA commissioners for having the courage to do the right thing for the hoboken community at large. Another step in moving forward away from the corrupt unethical days of years past.