Kane in Your Corner: Campaign contributions for Hoboken Housing Authority director
HOBOKEN - The executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority gave out more than $2 million in no-bid contracts to three companies who then donated thousands of dollars to his campaign for the state Legislature. But experts tell Kane In Your Corner that because of the way New Jersey’s ethics laws are written, the questionable dealings are likely legal.
Hoboken was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, so Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia makes no apologies for handing out millions in no-bid repair contracts. “We had imminent danger,” he says. “My No. 1 priority was the welfare, health and safety of my community, of my residents.”
But state election reports show three of the companies who received those emergency contracts; Hauser Brothers, Haddad Electric and A.M. Construction, then donated money to Garcia’s campaign for the New Jersey Assembly. That has some members of the housing board questioning whether there was a quid pro quo.
“There are a lot of electricians in Hudson County,” says Hoboken Housing Chairwoman Dana Wefer. “There’s a lot of boiler maintenance companies and a lot of construction companies. We don’t need to be going to the ones that contributed money to the executive director-assemblyman’s campaign.”
While Garcia’s spending may be questionable, several experts tell Kane In Your Corner that it is likely legal. Since he gave out the contracts in his capacity as Hoboken Housing Authority’s executive director and received contributions as an Assembly candidate, there would be no official conflict of interest under the state’s ethics laws.
Garcia accuses the majority of the housing board of targeting him for political reasons. Wefer is allied with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a longtime Garcia opponent. “There was no impropriety or malfeasance,” he says. “There was no, in any way, quid pro quo, under no certain terms.”
Wefer is not convinced, saying, “If it’s not illegal, I think that maybe we need to take another look at the laws.”