Zimmer & Bhalla violating NJ ethics laws?

Hoboken411 Exclusive: Zimmer & Bhalla conflict of interest?

“No local government officer or employee shall undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might reasonably be expected to prejudice his independence of judgment in the exercise of his official duties.”

– N.J.S.A. 40A:9-22.5

On April 18, 2012, Branch Services, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her husband Stan Grossbard for $3,278.94.

While the matter was ultimately settled out of court, the real controversy revolves around the attorney who represented the First Couple of Hoboken.

It was none other than Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla, who at the time was serving as Hoboken City Council President.

Zimmer Bhalla Hoboken NJ Conflict of Interest - Zimmer & Bhalla violating NJ ethics laws?

Included in the court documents is an email from Zimmer’s husband to Bhalla urging him to “feel free to charge if real work is involved.”

While no one knows if Bhalla ultimately did charge one thing is clear: either the City Council President was receiving a financial benefit from the Mayor or the Mayor was in receipt of legal services worth thousands of dollars.

How does one man serve as the Mayor’s “private attorney” while representing taxpayers on the City Council at the same time? It seems nearly impossible to serve the interests of both. Even worse, both Zimmer and Bhalla failed to disclose this conflict to the City Council or the residents of Hoboken. In fact, Bhalla continued to vote in favor of resolutions and ordinances sponsored by Zimmer’s Administration even though he had a very apparent conflict of interest.

One has to wonder after Zimmer ran up $2 million in legal bills if she or Bhalla asked the City Attorney for a legal opinion on Bhalla representing her.

Bhalla invokes “attorney client privilege”
. . . Was he representing Zimmer on two fronts?

Ravi Bhalla bees - Zimmer & Bhalla violating NJ ethics laws?At the June 20, 2012 Hoboken City Council meeting, Bhalla was questioned by City Council members on how he obtained information about Marianne Camporeale being removed from the Hoboken Housing Authority.

In addition, the resolution to replace Camporeale was sponsored by the Zimmer Administration and was placed on the agenda five days before a letter from the NJ State Department of Community Affairs removing Camporeale was received.

Bhalla REFUSED to answer questions about how he received the information about Camporeale being removed or about who authored the resolution to replace her on the HHA stating, “that’s attorney-client privilege.”

Did Bhalla receive information from Zimmer and write the resolution only to later claim it was “protected” by attorney-client privilege?

Is Bhalla using his “law license” to avoid the transparent government he and Zimmer promised when they ran for office?

If Bhalla didn’t charge for legal services, was there a quid pro quo that Hoboken residents are unaware of?

These are all unanswered questions, and ironically last year – Zimmer actually passed several executive orders with regard to “ethics reform.” Go figure!

Evidently Zimmer and Bhalla must have not read their own memos!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012 8:20 am

H411 I forgot to ask: Since the city council could not get an answer from bhalla on how he received this information on Ms Camporeale’s removal from HHA or whether or not bhalla acted as council for zimmer, will Ms Camporeale be filing charges? Since the council can’t act on assumptions, this may be the only measure to get to the bottom of this. Also, is the “Branch Services” settlement an entirely different matter?

kooky kat
kooky kat
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 1:57 pm

I hate it when I “accidentally” deposit a check!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 11:11 am

They have a overgrown sense of confidence about what they think is their private club. Sooner or later, they will be harshly reminded how public they actually are.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:37 am

You can walk past zimmer, bhalla, or grossbard on any given day and they just reek of dishonesty. It’s almost as if it’s discharged from their pores. Can’t understand how the public isn’t outraged on how they were duped into voting for these so-called reformers, or how they can watch their tax dollars disappear down a drain. And the public’s stupid explanation is to say “well, look at past administrations” as if it’s an answer to everything now going terribly wrong. Their property values are going down, crime is rampart, infrastructure is crumbling, roads are dangerous to navigate due to conflicting bike lanes and pot holes. Flooding will surely increase due to new construction and poor drainage in many parts of town. Projects are forever in the planning stages with many uncompleted and probably will be dragged out to the next election, and the people who voted them in office don’t seem to give a shit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:08 am

I wouldn’t expect any real transparency from this cast of clowns. Their idea of open government is a carefully penned press release and a back room.

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