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.