Hoboken Reporter

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Changing City Council procedures

The Board of Directors of People for Open Government (POG) invited you, and any council colleagues you chose, to meet with us in a public forum to discuss problems with the way the City Council conducts its business. In reply, you have said that, instead of such a meeting, POG should send you a list of remedies to the problems we have identified. POG expects the City Council and city administration to be willing to meet with citizen groups on public issues. Such meetings would foster the accountable and transparent government to which POG is dedicated. Inasmuch as you are unwilling or unavailable to meet with us, this letter will inform you of our thinking.

HUMC sale under scrutiny, Ex-Hoboken cop launches lawsuit over blocked records request

A former police officers’ private investigation into the dealings surrounding the hospital sale has come to a screeching halt after he was barred from accessing records from a related agency.

Ex-Hoboken cop Ed Mecka filed a lawsuit in the Hudson County Superior Court last week against Hudson Healthcare, Inc., (HHI) after his request for access to the organization’s records was blocked.

According to the complaint, Mecka filed an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to obtain materials from a July HHI Board of Directors meeting, including a list of attendees at the meeting, and a resolution passed by the board. Mecka’s request, however, was blocked by the HHI, who, according to the complaint, claimed that it was not a “public agency,” and therefore not subject to the Open Public Records Act.

Helen Hirsch: City’s lack of transparency leaves questions

Mayor Zimmer who, with promises of reform, has waved the banner of openness and integrity, has used every technique and opacity of secrecy in the book to hide the facts concerning the choice of the owners of the Bayonne University Medical Center as the only possible candidates as purchasers of HUMC.

When she became involved in the Hoboken Hospital Authority she did nothing to pull the raps of the organization which was established to outwit the legal requirements of a public body to make operations open to the public. She continues this code of secrecy to this day.

Hoboken Reporter: Company that wants to buy Hoboken's hospital says mayor 'misrepresented' them by releasing outdated proposal to the public

As the city of Hoboken works out a bankruptcy agreement for Hoboken University Medical Center so that they may sell it to a private company called HUMC Holdco, Mayor Dawn Zimmer's detractors have said that other bidders have given proposals to buy the hospital, and that perhaps they should have been considered.

Yesterday, Mayor Dawn Zimmer released a response, saying that two of the proposals - from Jersey City Medical Center, and from a company called P3 - were not as good as the current bid from HUMC Holdco, for a variety of reasons.

Those proposals are posted on the city website.

When contacted by the Reporter, Jersey City Medical Center declined to comment. But P3 offered a comment late on Thursday afternoon.

They said that the proposal that Zimmer posted was outdated, and that unlike Holdco, they would run the facility as a nonprofit and keep it for health care "in perpetuity." Holdco has given a guarantee for seven years.

Good buy, health care, Why are local hospitals becoming for-profit – and what are the consequences?

Within the span of 19 months, Hudson County residents have witnessed the sale of one of the local hospitals – Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus – and the pending sales of two others, Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital in Jersey City. In all three instances, the hospitals switched, or will switch, from nonprofit ownership to become for-profit entities.

These sales come just a few years after the closures of Greenville Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Jersey City, and three years after Bayonne Medical Center also changed hands from nonprofit to for-profit ownership.

Déjà vu all over again, Some see Hoboken hospital deal as history repeating itself

For some officials in Bayonne, the recent announcement by the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority Chairwoman Toni Tomarazzo that a private entity affiliated with Bayonne Medical Center is the final bidder in the process to purchase Hoboken University Medical Center is a bit of déjà vu.

“To tell you, I was a little alarmed when I heard it,” said former Councilman Gary La Pelusa, who was instrumental in providing city funds to help in the rescue of Bayonne Medical Center three years ago.

The Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority, according to a member of the BMC transition team, entered into a non-binding agreement with HUMC Holdco LLC, one of the principal owners of BMC, late last week, beginning the process that could result in the purchase of the ailing Hoboken hospital, making it into a for-profit hospital modeled after BMC.

Cops surprised by demotion announcement timing

All of the past year’s political battles were on display again at a marathon City Council meeting Wednesday night. Among the biggest issues was a plan to demote 12 police officers – a number that was reduced to nine by the end of the week.

The council is often split 5-4 on controversial votes right now, with the majority voting against the policies of Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Michael Russo, a sometime Zimmer critic, sported his yellow “Stop the Zimmer Police Layoffs” t-shirt. Demotions for 12 top officers in the Hoboken Police Department were scheduled to take effect the next day, and Zimmer confirmed her administration would carry out the demotion plan by issuing a press release around 10 p.m. while the meeting was in progress. (On Thursday evening, the mayor announced that another retirement had taken place, which limited the demotions to nine officers.)

How can voters tell phonies from straight-shooters?

In this political season, politicians are earning the contempt of citizen/voters, since they say only what they think constituents want to hear. For example, when I first met former Mayor Peter Cammarano, I suggested that repeated under-budgeting for employee health costs was responsible for Hoboken’s financial issues. His response: He wanted to end those benefits for the Mayor and the Council. He thought that idea would have made him seem unselfish (he was running for council at the time). Well, I know a phony when I meet one, and his remark showed only that he was not to be believed or trusted. Recently, as he was led off to the pen, his attorney announced that he had been abused as a child. As if that gave him license. As our current mayor wrote in a letter The Reporter published on Oct. 10, “the perversion of our government by unscrupulous developers and politicians did not start or end with Peter Cammarano.”

Another phony is 4th Ward councilman Michael Lenz. I first met this career politician in 2001, when he was managing Dave Roberts’ first mayoral campaign. At the time, Roberts’ predecessor was on his way to the slammer. At the campaign’s kickoff, I gave Lenz copies of Common Cause NJ’s draft ordinances to ban “pay-to-play” municipal contracts, suggesting that they serve as the basis of a squeaky-clean campaign. Lenz thanked me, but nothing happened after Roberts won, except that Lenz got a job at City Hall. When a public-spirited citizens’ group got an ordinance banning pay-to-play contracts adopted by referendum, Lenz did nothing to help the effort, but stood aside while suing the city for firing him.

Police layoffs avoided, Retirements, new HHA plan saves jobs

The bitter fight over Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s plan to lay off 18 police officers may have come to an end.

Mayor Zimmer, Police Chief Anthony Falco, and Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority Carmelo Garcia announced on Friday morning that the city – through a combination of the Housing Authority hiring five officers and a police reduction of force through retirements of some other officers – will be able to avoid the layoffs of all 18 officers.

The Housing Authority (HHA) agreed this week to hire five officers to work an overnight shift at the HHA buildings. Combined with the retirements of five other officers and commitments from some others to retire, the layoffs will be avoided and still save, in the long term, at least $2.5 million from the budget.

Attorney: Cammarano lost everything, had rough childhood, Ex-mayor sentenced to two years in prison in corruption bust

Former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, 33, was a rising star in the Democratic Party 14 months ago – but thanks to an FBI corruption sting last July, “He has been absolutely unemployed … [he’s] lost his marriage and been separated from his child,” said defense attorney Joseph Hayden on Thursday.

Hayden and Cammarano appeared in U.S. District Court in Newark to find out the ex-mayor’s sentence, four months after Cammarano pleaded guilty to accepting $25,000 in illegal campaign contributions from an FBI informant who posed as a real estate developer.