Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Council Members Marsh, Cunningham, Bhalla, and Mello Call for Russo Censure

The Hoboken Council minority of Marsh, Cunningham, Bhalla, and Mello have their response to the release yesterday of the Mike Russo FBI surveillance tapes......


Council members Marsh, Cunningham, Bhalla, and Mello call on the City Council to take action regarding revelations concerning Councilman Michael Russo. "We plan to present this resolution to the council at the beginning of the Wednesday's council meeting" Marsh said. "Councilman Russo's statements on the FBI surveillance tapes are appalling and we need to take steps to ensure that the Council takes immediate action to restore the public's confidence in its governmental institutions."

HJ photo and comment: Mike Russo on FBI surveillance tapes in 2009 dealing with informant
Solomon Dwek who was ironically from Deal, NJ (as in lets make a deal).

Resolution calling for censure and other actions concerning councilman Michael Russo:

WHEREAS, a recent book entitled “The Jersey Sting” included the following disclosure with respect to Councilman Michael Russo’s previously unknown meeting with Solomon Dwek:

"You need something? Boom,” continued Khalil. “Call him tomorrow: “I need five, ten grand for my campaign.” Boom.”

As intended, Russo was impressed. “Always nice to have friends like that.”
Then they got down to business. “Whatever I do, I’ll do through Maher…I don’t want to do anything in my name. I don’t want to have any conflicts,” Dwek said.

“You’re a smart man,” Russo observed.

“I’ll give him five thousand next week and you’ll work it out…and after the election, I’ll do the same. It’ll be more.”

Russo agreed and then the foursome broke up. After that, however, Russo would not take calls from Dwek’s middlemen…

WHEREAS, in response to this disclosure and assertions by the public that Councilman Russo's conduct was improper, Councilman Russo defended his conduct to the Hoboken Reporter insisting that he "made it very clear to Mr. Dwek that [he] would not except cash contributions", that there was to be "no quid pro quo" and "told him what the legalities are"; and

WHEREAS on April 4, 2011 the full tape of the meeting between Councilman Russo and Solomon Dwek was made public and the tape confirmed the accuracy of the account provided in the book and did not contain any of the exculpatory statements claimed by Councilman Russo; and

WHEREAS it is clear from the surveillance tape that Councilman Russo agreed to provide expedited treatment for development projects in the same conversation in which he agreed to accept a $5,000 payment to be laundered through a third party, including the following exchanges, as reported by Hoboken Patch:

“Dwek asked if his zoning variances would be heard within 30 or 60 days, rather than the procedural six months to a year. At first Russo answered that he couldn't answer that right away. After Dwek specified that he means after the elections and after Russo’s “people are in place,” the councilman responded that “once we get those people in place, we’ll most certainly expedite all those applications.”

The “people in place,” Russo explained moments earlier on the tape, were the three council-at-large candidates who’d run on Councilwoman Beth Mason’s mayoral ticket. In return for his supporting her campaign, Russo explained to Dwek and the other two men at the table, he would be allowed to handpick the candidates on her slate.”

“I’m an investor, developer … I don’t want to be left on the bottom of the pile,” Dwek said to Russo. “That’s why I do what I gotta do with the right people.”

“Absolutely,” Russo answered again."
WHEREAS far from supporting Councilman Russo's claim that his actions were proper, the tape raises other serious questions beyond bribery, and solicitation and acceptance of illegal campaign contributions, including a specific example of trading housing and a position on the HHA board for political gain; and

WHEREAS the initial printed disclosures, Councilman Russo's demonstrably false response, and the contents of the subsequently released tape taken as a whole, demonstrate Councilman Russo's unfitness to represent the City of Hoboken as Council Vice President, Revenue and Finance committee chair, on any committee, or as Commissioner of the Hoboken Housing Authority;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Hoboken calls upon Councilman Russo to resign as Vice President and if he does not, calls an immediate vote of no confidence to remove him; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council calls on Council President Mason to immediately remove Councilman Russo as Chair of the Revenue and Finance committee and from all committee; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Hoboken calls upon Councilman Russo to resign his position as Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner and if he does not, directs Corporation Council to determine if sufficient evidence exists to support his removal for cause as Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner and in the event that he determines that sufficient cause exists, take all further steps to present to the council at its next meeting, the set of procedures required to accomplish this removal as quickly as possible; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in light of Councilman Russo's actions taken as a whole, the Council hereby censures Councilman Russo for his actions and for the discredit they have brought on the City of Hoboken. ◦