Bhalla hoboken resolution

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Bhalla hoboken resolution

  1. 1. Sponsored by: Councilwoman Mason Seconded by: Councilwoman Castellano CITY OF HOBOKEN RESOLUTION NO.:____ A RESOLUTION REGARDING AN APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST INVOLVING THE HOBOKEN CITY COUNCIL WHEREAS, earlier this year, the State of New Jersey, Department of Community Affairs, issued a finding declaring Councilman Ravinder Bhalla had violated the New Jersey Local Government Ethics Law due to his financial ties to a professional services vendor to the City of Hoboken; and, WHEREAS, in early August 2013, that same Councilman, Ravinder Bhalla, became a partner at a law firm, Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader LLC ("Florio Perrucci"), which in 2012 and 2013 was awarded lucrative contracts by the City of Hoboken to serve as Special Counsel, and since has billed the City tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees; and, WHEREAS, City records indicate Councilman Bhalla has supported the award of City contracts to Florio Perrucci and has also voted to approve payment of that firm's legal bills; and, WHEREAS, earlier this year, Florio Perrucci sought an appointment as General Counsel to the Hoboken Housing Authority, on which Councilman David Mello serves and in that capacity advocated for that firm's appointment notwithstanding another law firm had scored far higher in the HHA's bidding process and was willing to do the work at a cheaper hourly rate; and, WHEREAS, the Council of the City of Hoboken believes it to be a clear conflict of interest for a Council member to be a partner at an entity that is performing professional legal services on behalf of the City of Hoboken; and, WHEREAS, Mayor Dawn Zimmer has similarly been quoted in the news media stating that "if one of the city’s outside attorneys were to announce a candidacy for City Council, I don’t think anyone would question whether it would become inappropriate for that lawyer to continue representing the city of Hoboken;" and, WHEREAS, Mayor Zimmer has rightly expressed deep concern about "pay-to-play" under such circumstances, and this Council notes that Florio Perrucci has in recent years been cited by PolitickerNJ.com as a major contributor to political candidates and organizations in New Jersey; and, WHEREAS, this Council is aware that on September 6, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, issued a decision in the matter of Thomas Sweeney v. City of Hoboken, in which Florio Perrucci was listed as the law firm that was representing the City of Hoboken - well after the date Councilman Bhalla joined that firm; and,
  2. 2. WHEREAS, this Council has located no record whatsoever of Florio Perrucci ever withdrawing from its representation in the Sweeney matter, and under the rules governing the professional conduct of lawyers, Florio Perrucci, and therefore Councilman Bhalla as a partner of that firm, have at all relevant times remained legally responsible for the conduct of this litigation and presumably will be also billing the City for their professional services as well; and, WHEREAS, this Council believes the foregoing is just one example of the conflict of interest concerns raised by Councilman Bhalla becoming a partner at one of the City's professional services vendors, and also observes that to date Councilman Bhalla has never publicly advised exactly when he commenced negotiations to become a partner at Florio Perrucci so that it can be determined whether he was simultaneously casting votes on that firm's contracts and/or legal bills; and, WHEREAS, pursuant to the power expressly granted to the City Council under the Faulkner Act to express its opinions on matters affecting the governance of the City, the Council believes it must speak out on this matter of critical importance; NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HOBOKEN as follows: 1. The City Council declares its deep concern over what appears to be irrefutable evidence that one of its members has been working for a law firm that simultaneously has been representing the City of Hoboken as a professional services vendor, and believes such conduct to be a clear conflict of interest; and, 2. The City Council urges Councilman Bhalla and Florio Perrucci to provide the Council and all of the citizens of Hoboken with a full and complete public accounting of all their business dealings, including the exact date that Councilman Bhalla's potential employment with the firm was first discussed, and reserves the right to conduct an appropriate legislative investigation pursuant to the Faulkner Act if such information is not voluntarily disclosed; and, 3. The City Council directs the Corporation Counsel to, within seven (7) business days, provide each Council member with (a) a list of all cases handled by Florio Perrucci in 2012 and 2013, and (b) copies of all bills submitted by that firm to date, with appropriate redactions for attorney-client privilege so that this information may be provided to the public; and, 4. The City Council urges the Mayor to publicly express her support for this Resolution, in accordance with her previous statements to the press on this subject, provided she is not precluded from doing so because Councilman Bhalla has previously served as her family's personal legal counsel while both were holding public office in Hoboken; and, 5. The City Clerk shall deliver a certified copy of this Resolution to the Mayor of Hoboken, and also to the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs with a request that they each investigate this matter and take any action that they may deem appropriate.
  3. 3. APPROVED AS TO FORM: ___________________________ Corporation Counsel Date of Meeting: October ___, 2013

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