Hoboken Hypocrisy: A tale of two Michaels

Russo, Lenz, diners, developers & the great double standard

Councilman Michael Russo’s dream of someday rising to an office higher than 3rd ward councilman probably disintegrated with the release of an FBI videotape of a “fundraising meeting” with informant Solomon Dwek.

The FBI didn’t arrest Russo because he didn’t break the law. No money changed hands, but words were said that Russo could never take back… words that will always haunt him even if – as many people still believe – he wins re-election next month. After all, Russo is only facing token opposition from a no-name fringe candidate who calls people who don’t agree with him “Neo-Nazis.”

Lenz also meets with developers in diners

There was no hidden camera the day former 4th ward councilman Michael Lenz met with developers in the back of a North Bergen diner to discuss variances on their property.

Kyle Enger and his partners had a problem, and they turned to Michael Lenz to help them “fix it.” Community activists filed an appeal to the City Council seeking to overturn height and unit number variances awarded by the Zoning Board on an Enger property.

Lenz ally Tony Soares was on the Zoning Board at the time and voted to approve the variances.

With an appeal headed for the City Council, the developers went to Lenz for help. After his diner meeting Lenz led the charge to maintain the variances, and secured the votes of his allies to make it happen. Enger and his partner on the project Anthony Sabia showed their appreciation to Lenz by giving him $1000 for his campaign fund. There was no Solomon Dwek at the diner table when Lenz met with Enger, so there is no FBI videotape to show the world what happened. Sources say it wasn’t unlike the Russo/Dwek meeting, with one key difference: Lenz actually accepted the money.

The double standard: No calls for a Lenz investigation

In the middle of this election season, Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her allies are doing all they can to use this Russo debacle against their opposition. There are calls for Russo’s resignation from the council, removal from his leadership positions and appointments, and calls for a “full investigation.”

Zimmer even announced she is spending taxpayer money to transcribe the hour-long video of the Russo lunch to help her council candidates use the information against the opposition.

Zimmer never said anything about Michael Lenz’s meeting with Kyle Enger, his vote to uphold major variances and acceptances of $1000 in campaign contributions from the beneficiaries.

None of the Zimmer-allied members of the council have called for any sort of investigation of the Lenz developer meetings.

And for all of his bluster about his “devotion to ethics” in government, former POG president and current 1st ward candidate Eric Kurta has never made a public statement about Lenz’s activities. Hmmph!

The only public discussion of the issue came at a council meeting when frequent speaker Lane Bajardi asked Lenz allies Carol Marsh and Peter Cunningham if they, too, had met with Enger before voting to uphold his variances. (They denied they had joined Lenz and Enger for a meal.)

Lenz works for a guy who took $20k from Dwek!

None of the sham groups set up to advance Zimmer’s political goals have called for any investigation into Lenz’s activities, but now they’ve predictably “awakened from the dead” to pile on to Russo weeks before an election.

Meanwhile, Lenz still keeps his Hudson County patronage job working for a man who took $20,000 from Solomon Dwek as a “Consulting Fee” for hooking him up with key politicians.

That man – Harold “Bud” Demellier – is still on the public payroll as Director of the County Department of Roads and Public Property making $128,000 a year on top of his “Consulting Fees.” Demellier is the operative who would have had to sign off on the deal to hire the under-qualified Lenz for his $70,000 job at the county’s Meadowview Campus.

Don’t forget Lenz and Russo’s deal to help Soares

Of course, no discussion of political backroom deal-making involving Lenz and Russo can be complete without mentioning the appointment of Tony Soares to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority board.

Soares craved the position for it’s practically free health benefits plan and $5000 stipend. Where else can you get a part-time job with full benefits but government in Hoboken? Soares was also Chairman of the Zoning Board at the time, making his appointment to the NHSA an example of Dual Office Holding, something self-proclaimed “reformers” are supposed to be against.

Dave Mello and Ravi Bhalla didn’t agree that Soares should get the job, so Lenz turned to Russo to secure his votes. Sources say a deal was made to allow Russo to pick an alternate to the Zoning Board and a “player to be named later” on another board in exchange for his vote for Soares. Mello, Bhalla, Beth Mason and Nino Giacchi voted against the Soares appointment, but the Lenz/Russo alliance carried the vote for Soares.

Speaking of bagmen, Soares’ political mentor was one

Soares himself is no stranger to political bagmen. His mentor in Hudson County politics was Paul Byrne who pleaded guity to accepting bribes for disgraced former County Executive Bob Janiszewski. Byrne admitted he passed $6,150 in cash payments to Janiszewski from Hoboken accountant Gerard Lisa, keeping a portion for himself. Lisa admitted that he was paying the money to Janiszewski to secure renewal of his county contract. Byrne died before he was sentenced to prison.

The bottom line: Hoboken’s political hypocrisy sucks.

The closer you look at some of Hoboken’s key political players, the more they look alike. The difference is the spin machine, and how so-called “reformers” keep quiet when one of their own is caught in a compromising position, and pounce with thunderous indignation when someone on the other side gets caught playing the same game.

Leave a Reply

19 Comments on "Hoboken Hypocrisy: A tale of two Michaels"

beermeagain
Member
beermeagain

How is the story about another crooked old school Hoboken politician, Russo, turning into a bash Zimmer fest? Is that how Beth wants it?

Hoboken1954A
Member
Hoboken1954A

Negative innuendo for a specific official not surprising!
Actions speak louder than words & the present administration has made Clear
Pointing a finger at Beth Mason or Anyone who is a threat will be Discredited.
Unless All are Caught on video there will be no Admission of Guilt by any
Hoboken Politicals.
City will move forward as best it can with what it has to work with..
Hoboken will Survive contrary to all opinions. [quote comment=”205503″]How is the story about another crooked old school Hoboken politician, Russo, turning into a bash Zimmer fest? Is that how Beth wants it?[/quote]

HearditallB4
Member
HearditallB4
This debacle makes me wonder if the release of the Jersey Sting was strategically timed before the upcoming elections. It has brought about vicious mudslinging and disgrace to all parties involved both running for office and former elected officials. Truthfully I hope the vote I cast in the upcoming election doesn’t come back to haunt me. I’m voting my conscience (sp) and hope that my choice doesn’t have any surprises to be revealed at a later date. Corruption is a felonious crime that must be dealt with immediately. As for Russo’s admission of guilt I think Councilwoman Castellano said it best when she said he said what he had to say. Judgmental comments will continue to come out from both sides, will he win, who knows? As for his aspirations of becoming Mayor one day, I think that is something that even he knows is just a fantasy. The small gathering of protestors in front of City Hall was expected, but to bring children into it by making them carry signs that read “Like Father Like Son” is truly a bad choice. They are just that, children, not voters or even young adults with the ability to make their own choices. JMO of course, and hopefully MO will not be judged or scoffed at. It is not intended to provoke either Zimmer supporters or Russo supporters. I wish each candidate luck and hope that if the person I choose does not win, at least I will try to take the… Read more »
Hoboken1954A
Member
Hoboken1954A
Politics is a Dirty business. Unfortunaely someone Dirtier usually points it out. Anyone NOT a part of the Mayors Administration is safe choice for me. Seems to me people with NO Consciences are in charge now. Hope for the Best, will live with the rest. Political Rise & Fall, is merely matter of time, [quote comment=”205576″]This debacle makes me wonder if the release of the Jersey Sting was strategically timed before the upcoming elections. It has brought about vicious mudslinging and disgrace to all parties involved both running for office and former elected officials. Truthfully I hope the vote I cast in the upcoming election doesn’t come back to haunt me. I’m voting my conscience (sp) and hope that my choice doesn’t have any surprises to be revealed at a later date. Corruption is a felonious crime that must be dealt with immediately. As for Russo’s admission of guilt I think Councilwoman Castellano said it best when she said he said what he had to say. Judgmental comments will continue to come out from both sides, will he win, who knows? As for his aspirations of becoming Mayor one day, I think that is something that even he knows is just a fantasy. The small gathering of protestors in front of City Hall was expected, but to bring children into it by making them carry signs that read “Like Father Like Son” is truly a bad choice. They are just that, children, not voters or even young adults with the… Read more »
Rn17
Member
Rn17

I can see how it is turning into a bash Zimmer fest. Zimmer, Lenz, Marsh,and Bhalla all have their share of similair shady dealings. Now I am not defending Russo and I have never voted for him. But, I am getting tired of the hypocrites from the Zimmer camp. Now clearly if Russo made any illegal deal he would have been rounded up with all the other politicians during this operation. I watched the video and some parts are disturbing. The bottom line Russo did not take any money, never met the guy again, and never took a call from him again. You have a guy saying he is buying casino’s and putting buildings up all over the east coast. All Russo did was entertain the guy. Lenz entertained, accepted payment, and voted. Ravi created a PAC, donated, and added another city contract to his firm. Zimmer was elected to the city council by a developer. The Zimmer camp will be bashing Ravi soon about his misdeeds but, only after he announces or they find out he will be running against her for mayor. That is a fact. [quote comment=”205503″]How is the story about another crooked old school Hoboken politician, Russo, turning into a bash Zimmer fest? Is that how Beth wants it?[/quote]

kooky kat
Member

It’s nice to see the local lynch mob is firing up their torches and pitchforks for their annual rally! Maybe they can stop at Cammarano’s house and harass his innocent wife and baby again.

HOB424
Member
HOB424

I would bet that every single city politician has been approached by these types of people, who want something in return. When you’re meeting with someone, you are feeling them out, then you leave and decide what to do. The problem is he lied about the facts. If he would have just come clean and said yes, I met with this guy, but after consideration, knew it was wrong, so I did not do anything. Then the story goes away, if you own up to it. Is it really any different, then other council people who take campaign contributions and then suddenly vote to approve their contributor’s plans. Or if you get a call from a guy like this and your spouse thinks it’s a good idea to listen and consider what this guy is offereing? Or is it like when you make a campaign donation to certain policital people and then you are awarded lucrative “pay to play” contracts. Or when you vote on contracts or appointments for your (office space sharing) business associates and relatives? Spin it anyway you want, but it’s all the same. Politicis is a dirty business. They all make deals with each other.

homeworld
Member

I live in the Third Ward and this sealed the deal for my vote for Greg Lincoln.

gazzosdriver
Member
gazzosdriver

Russo will win election. Even if under indictment he wins the scumbag vote which inhabits his ward. I do take comfort knowing that he will never be mayor. And that was his goal.

My one ask of him is that he never open his mouth again when the council discusses pay to play or any other campaign reform legislation. He has my permission to look at his blackberry, read the NY Post, hit the men’s room or put his head down and take a nap. Just do not insult me by engaging in the debate.

wpDiscuz