Interim Hoboken City Attorney Named

9/14/2010 Update:

Zimmer names new interim Corporation Counsel

Hoboken411’s 35 to 1 odds pay off for Weiner/Lesniak!

So much for outgoing City Attorney Michael Kates “staying on in the interim” after tendering his resignation.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s pubic relations team announced she has appointed Mark Tabakin of Weiner/Lesniak to serve as the city’s Interim Corporation Counsel and that he – and not Kates – will serve as the city’s attorney at tomorrow night’s council meeting.

Zimmer admits Tabakin is under consideration for the permanent job, so the appointment makes it pretty clear that anyone who thought they would actually have a open shot at the job through the city’s RFQ process is S.O.L.

Lesniak: Another contract for powerful State Senator

Instead of going outside the political box, Zimmer has chosen yet another politically connected law firm.

State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) is a statewide political figure. City Hall critics are watching to see if Councilman Ravinder S. Bhalla picks up any public legal contracts in Union County now that the administration has cozied up to it’s political power player.

Tabakin is listed on Weiner/Lesniak’s website as “A member of the Commercial Litigation Department and co-chair of the Labor and Education Departments. He has concentrated his entire legal career in the area of school law and labor/employment law, and has served as counsel to a number of school districts throughout the state.” There is no mention of any experience serving municipal governments like Hoboken.

More on the Mayor’s missteps that led to Kates’ exit, plus the original Hoboken411 odds on who would replace him after the jump!


Kates quits, Zimmer’s choices called into question again

Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s Municipal Garage fiasco has taken another casualty.

Corporation Counsel Michael Kates tendered his resignation after less than 9 months on the job. The quick exit comes after a Hudson County Superior Court Judge ruled the city should face trial for moving its Municipal Garage operations to 1714 Willow Avenue even though the city knew Hoboken Unleashed had a lease securing the property.

Sources tell Hoboken411 Zimmer was fit to be tied when she heard the mishandled case will mean she and other members of her administration would be deposed on video ahead of an October 12th trial. Zimmer was also deposed in 2007 regarding allegations her City Council campaign illegally handled absentee ballots. Zimmer resigned the seat and agreed to a new election rather than risk further legal exposure to her and the Hudson County Machine operatives who were secretly assisting her campaign.

Kates was an odd choice from the beginning

When Zimmer became acting Mayor in July 2009 she inherited two Corporation Counsels. Zimmer told Jason Orlando his services would not be needed and kept Steve Kleinman on while she searched for a new lawyer. When Kleinman refused to give the questionable legal opinion that Zimmer had the power to break a tie to appoint Michael Lenz to the fourth ward seat, she brought Special Counsel Ed Buzak in to take over the meeting. Buzak still has a city contract, but was replaced at council meetings by Kates, a land use attorney who represented Zimmer in a lawsuit before she was Mayor. Back when Kates was appointed on a part-time basis, City Hall critics said Hoboken needed a full time law director. Unlike previous City Attorneys, Kates did not leave his law firm to take the city job and was rarely seen in Hoboken during the workweek.

Conflicts with Bhalla, Garage Battle marred Kates’ tenure

Kates first came under fire for offering a haphazard opinion that Councilman Ravinder S. Bhalla did not have any conflict when he voted to give a no-bid legal contract to his pal Paul Condon, with whom he shared an office, staff and supplies. Kates was also criticized for not working fast enough to codify Rent Control Ordinance reforms to avoid the filing of a class action lawsuit against the city. Later has assurances to the council that they faced no jeopardy moving Municipal Garage operations to 1714 Willow were blown out of the water when the original leaseholder sued the city, and a judge agreed the case had merit. Kates and Zimmer withheld the information about that leaseholder from the public and council until after City Hall watchdog Perry Belfiore raised the issue during public comment.

Zimmer breaks Dave Roberts’ record for dispatching attorneys

Who’s next?

Two-term Mayor David Roberts always seemed to be changing Directors, including Corporation Counsel Esther Suarez who lasted only a year and a half. Roberts hired Joe Sherman, whom he fired four years later to bring on Steve Kleinman. Zimmer inherited Kleinman, fired Orlando, switched to Buzak and then to Kates before “accepting his resignation” this week. Under Zimmer there are more law firms under contract than Mayors Roberts and Russo ever had at one time. Zimmer’s mishandling of several legal situations has led to a surge in lawsuits against the city, which in turn has led to a surge in law contracts on the taxpayers’ dime.

Who’s next? Here are the Hoboken411 odds on the politically connected firms Zimmer may consider.

McManimon and Scotland, 10 to 1

The HCDO’s go-to firm was awarded one contract by Zimmer as she continues to play nice with County Executive Tom DeGise. M&S Attorney Bill Northgrave represented Zimmer in her 2007 absentee ballot battle, and has been a power in Hudson County since the Janiszewski days.

Florio and Kenny, 15 to 1

The law firm of former State Senator and Shadow Mayor Bernie Kenny could be thrown a bone by Zimmer at the behest of un-elected councilman Michael Lenz. Kenny got rich on legal contracts secured through his old post in Trenton, but has lost them as his political clout disappeared. 5th ward Councilman Peter Cunningham also desperately wants Kenny to walk with him knocking in Old Hoboken doors as the spring elections draw closer. Payback, anyone?

Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, 25 to 1

This firm represents the Board of Education. On the advice of Porzio Bromberg attorneys, when President Rose Markle doesn’t like a public speaker’s comments at the microphone she declares them out of order and threatens to have them removed by Police if they don’t step down, even if they’re 5 minutes isn’t up. Despite the directives of the Open Public Meetings Act, Markle has been advised she can call any citizen out-of-order on a whim, even during the “Open Public Portion” at the end of the meeting. This put a chill on public comment at the School Board, and may put Porzio on the short list of Council President Carol Marsh, who infamously wanted to severely cut public comment at council meetings.

Weiner/Lesniak, 35 to1

State Senator Ray Lesniak’s firm is among the most powerful in the state, and Zimmer has already awarded them a contract, extending Lesniak’s tentacles into Hoboken. Some say the firm was brought in as a means to open new territory to six-figure public-contract holding attorney Ravi Bhalla, who has no qualms about paying to play.

Leah Healey, 500 to 1

The founder of retired from practicing law and left her firm Maraziti, Falcon & Healey, which was awarded a Special Counsel-Redevelopment contract by Zimmer. Healy would have conflicts, as she’s been a party to lawsuits against Ursa/Tarragon and has taken other stands against developers in town.

Some unknown firm from nowhere, 1000 to 1

There isn’t much chance some unknown firm without political ties is going to get this contract.

Steve Kleinman, Joe Sherman, Bob Murray, E. Norman Wilson… 500,000 to 1

Kleinman and Wilson are still in town, and Sherman was last seen filing tax appeals for clients against the city, but none of the former top city lawyers will likely be asked back by Zimmer.

Christopher Campos, Esq. 1,000,000 to 1

The former 4th Ward Councilman knows the territory. His inability to predict a Judge would throw out his civil case against the cops who handled his DUI after he himself plead guilty to driving while impaired puts him on a legal par with Kates, who failed to see how a pre-existing lease on 1714 Willow wouldn’t be an issue for Hoboken.

That’s the way it is…

As always, for the real story stay with Hoboken411. No spoon-fed re-print of the “official” word from the City Hall Minister of Propaganda here.

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7 Comments on "Interim Hoboken City Attorney Named"

6 years 1 month ago

Every time I turn around, there’s another article about how Zimmer’s giving no-bid contracts out…I’m really curious as to whether those people who voted for Zimmer remain comfortable that she was and still is the best representative for mayor for Hoboken? Jeesh…when are the elections?

6 years 1 month ago

LMAO. By the time this fool has her ducks in any sort of order, it will be time to vacate the premises.

6 years 1 month ago

Given the layoffs in Big Law and lack of hiring in the legal profession overall they are probably lining up in front of City Hall right now for a job. Was this guy part time? $100k part time, nice gig if you can get it, did it come with bennies too?

6 years 1 month ago

Let me guess who the replacement will be, the attorney at the last council meeting who Michael Russo, was questioning about some report or memo?

6 years 1 month ago

Those are great odds 411. Also Scarinci, though. That’s Stack’s favored law firm, and could be the suck up choice.

Kates might be a very good lawyer but he was not good for this job. I am very curious as to how much he billed for working part-time. He did not protect Councilman Bhalla from potential ethics violations and potentially cost the city ten of thousands with this municipal garage issue.