HOBOKEN -- This morning, Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason said that Councilman Ravi Bhalla should not have voted last week on a $29,000 legal contract making Hoboken lawyer Paul Condon special counsel for certain matters pertaining to suspended Hoboken Police Lt. Angelo Andriani. Mason said that because Bhalla and Condon share an office and possibly some rental expenses, it was a "blatant" conflict of interest.
Bhalla responded that Condon was hired for similar matters during the prior administration, so they brought him back this time because of his expertise. He also said that he and Condon are not law partners, and that they pay their rent separately.
Also this morning, Mason charged that if Bhalla and Councilman Peter Cunningham had not voted on Condon's contract, it would not have passed.
Bhalla, in turn, responded in another newspaper that this was a "lie" since the vote was 9-0.
Mason took offense to Bhalla's statement that it was a "lie" and released a new statement this afternoon:
"In November, Councilman Bhalla said that I was lying when I accused the administration of hiding a tax increase. He personally guaranteed a tax cut. Voters learned who was telling the truth when higher tax bills arrived after the election. Now he is resorting to the same personal attack. The truth is easy to determine. All Bhalla has to do is release and fully disclose all business expenses that he shares with Paul Condon, including all rental agreements between them personally and their landlord."
A Mason spokesman, Philip Swibinsky, was asked if it was or wasn't true that the vote was 9-0.
"The vote was 9-0," he noted. "However ... if Councilmen Bhalla and Cunningham had disclosed their blatant conflicts before the vote and then abstained, as they should have, the vote would have unfolded very differently."
(Cunningham's conflicts, according to Mason, are that Condon gave him a $750 campaign donation, and that his wife works with Condon's wife in Hoboken real estate.)
Meanwhile, government watchdog Eric Kurta responded in the comments section of the previous post on this matter. He noted, in part:
...the 2010 contract for legal services given to Mr. Paul Condon is not in violation of the 2007 Pay-to-Play ordinance. It is problematic only in terms of public perception and personal conclusions drawn.
Mr. Condon did enter into an agreement to provide legal services to the city for a one-year period beginning February 28, 2008. The contributions made by Mr. Condon’s spouse, Renee Condon, were dated 3/30/07 ($750) and 5/31/07 ($500) and are within the one-year period prior to entering into an agreement wherein contributions are limited to $300 or less. Though the amount of the contract was for less than that of the state’s bidding threshold, it was nonetheless defined as a professional services agreement and thereby apprarently bound to comply with the P2P ordinance. This has been brought to the attention of Mr. Kates, Hoboken Corporation Counsel, who will report his conclusions to the Mayor and City Council sooner rather than later, I would imagine.
The contract was signed by Mr. Condon and Mayor Roberts....