Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dawn Zimmer Memo to City Council

Mayor Dawn Zimmer sent this memo to Hoboken City Council, in particular the new obstructionist majority that seems hell bent on putting the City in legal and financial jeapordy just to score some cheap political points. Here is her letter sent today on three main issues:

May 4, 2011

Dear City Council Members:

I am writing to provide an update on several important issues.


During review, the construct of the current towing contract was found to be in conflict with state contracting laws. Prior towing bid specifications were structured such that only an in-town towing vendor would qualify. Since there is only one in-town towing vendor, such a requirement illegally excludes all other potential bidders from the competitive process. In fact, a previous bidder had informed us that they would sue, exposing the City to risk of litigation. To correct this conflict with state law, new bid specifications were released to include vendors with a “storage location within 5 miles of the boundary of the City of Hoboken” and a response time “within 20 minutes” of the initial request.

When members of the Council were made aware of this change, concerns were expressed that a tow yard located out of Hoboken would be overly inconvenient to individuals retrieving their cars. In response to this concern, the bid specifications included a potential alternative that allowed for short-term storage of vehicles at a “municipally-controlled storage facility”. Any city-owned facilities, including the city’s municipal garage, were referenced as potential short-term storage locations.

In other words, the bid specifications provided options to specifically address concerns raised by City Council members and Councilman Russo in particular. These options would allow residents to retrieve their vehicles locally instead of out of town.

After all responses are received for the revised bid, my Administration intends to hold a community meeting to receive public input with regard to whether temporary storage of towed vehicles at a convenient location is a desirable option and if so which locations would be best. Based on that input, we would then, together with the City Council, make a decision on how to proceed.

If the Council wishes to eliminate options prior to receipt of public input at this community meeting, my Administration will respect that recommendation. Please note that requiring that towing be located in the City of Hoboken is not a legally permissible option. The choice of vendors must be made based on legal requirements, and the City is required to provide truthful and legally permissible reasons for its choice of vendors.


After decades of fiscal mismanagement, I’m proud that Hoboken has had a series of honest, gimmick-free, and fully-funded budgets. Even as we’ve tackled infrastructure challenges, a slew of legacy lawsuits, and unsettled contract negotiations, we have managed to cut costs and introduce a budget that reduces the municipal tax levy by 10% since Fiscal Year 2010 and contains a 5% cash surplus. This is crucial since credit rating agencies and other financial experts recommend that a municipality’s cash surplus represent 5% to 10% of the total budget.

In addition, our City still faces many expensive infrastructure challenges. This includes repairing our waterfront, building new parks, upgrading our water infrastructure, and burying unsightly utility wires. Taking on these challenges will require significant bonding which is why it is so important to maintain a surplus and thereby improve our near-junk status bond rating and lower borrowing costs.

For all these reasons I am concerned about the long-term fiscal health of the City and that our ability to fix these problems may suffer as a result of the over-politicization of our City’s finances. Some Council Members have even stated that the City should completely deplete its surplus – a fiscally irresponsible one-shot gimmick like those that led to a state takeover and a massive tax increase. I strongly urge the Council to put politics aside, maintain a 5% cash surplus so we can improve our bond rating and address our infrastructure challenges, and act in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures the long-term success of our great City.

Pantoja Lawsuit/SWAT Litigation

It is unfortunate that as we have worked to clean up lawsuits inherited from past Administrations, a confidential memo protected by attorney-client privilege regarding a settlement agreement emailed to you on April 20th from Business Administrator Liston has been inappropriately leaked to a political blog for political purposes, potentially damaging the City’s legal interests and costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Worse, the public is being misled about the facts. As you know, if a settlement is reached, the vast majority of the settlement would be covered by the City’s insurance carrier.

The issues involved in this litigation include allegations of discrimination by former Lt. Andriani against members of the Hoboken Police Department. Lt. Andriani was terminated from City employment on May 10, 2010. Under my Administration, City employees, including the Police Department, have completed civil rights training and will be required to complete this training every year. My Administration has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

This matter, which concerns ongoing litigation, was to be discussed in closed session at this week’s Council meeting in order to protect the City’s legal and financial interests. As a result of the release of confidential information, the item is being removed from the agenda so Corporation Counsel can assess the damage that may have been done to the City and make a determination as to how to proceed to best protect the City’s financial interests.

Council Members are reminded of their obligation to keep confidential information confidential and understand that this obligation is not an option, but a legal and ethical requirement to which they each swore to upkeep.


Mayor Dawn Zimmer ◦