The prevailing comment about this year’s League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City was that it was boring.
"It was all business," one prominent Hudson County politico commented, bemoaning the good ol’ days when Bob Janiszewski held court in the bar area of Bally’s bar, where the former county executive walked around with drink in hand (Dewar’s and soda on the rocks) and worked the crowd.
"He would die of shock if he was more than 100 yards from the bar," said a close friend.
Janiszewski’s chief of staff during his last year of office, David Drumeler (who does not drink), was assigned to make certain Bobby J’s glass remained more than half full.
Deals, insiders say, were cut in a little booth in the back.
The most exciting events in this year’s convention was the wild west show that Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham put on, his invitations making no secret of his history as a U.S. Marshall. The theme kept Gene Drayton’s Stetson from being out of place.
Jersey City mayoral hopeful Junior Maldonado, not to be outdone, held his affair in the Spartacus Room of Caesar’s, but no report has yet claimed that guests wore togas.
Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts was one of the few Hudson County politicos who did not make the trip south this year, saying he was too busy conducting city business. A rumor said he may have planned a meeting with former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who has been exchanging insults with current Jersey City Mayor Cunningham.
Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and his staff made the trip down, but according to Elwell’s Deputy Mayor John Reilly, they attended some of the conferences and came back with significant tips about roadway speed bumps.
Geoff’s a swell guy?
Overshadowing this year’s convention was the story of Geoff Perselay in the New Jersey Law Journal. Perselay is one of the usual key players on the Atlantic City scene. He was portrayed by the article as someone dancing around the edges of various scandals but not burned or charged with any crime.
Rumors claim the Perselay story was an FBI plant, and that good old Geoff is secretly testing out his junior FBI badge the way Bobby J. did during his last year in office.
"Midnight Cowgirl," one of this column’s most prized inside sources, described Perselay as a personable player with some strong ethical qualities.
"Geoff and I always had a very cordial business relationship. He treated me with respect, never with derision or obstruction," she said. "[He was] a consummate wheeler and dealer, as well as having a demeanor that engenders trust. I always felt Geoff treated me with honesty and respect. I see Geoffrey S. Perselay as someone who has impeccable manners and professionalism in his business dealings. What motivates him, what ethics he truly has and acts upon, I really don’t know."
Midnight Cowgirl had less kind things to say about Janiszewski’s wife Beth, but many county workers have spoken up recently after the article detailing some of her political activities was published in the Hudson Reporter newspapers last week. They criticized her poignant use of language, and some of the comments even came from people who had claimed to be on her side politically.
Smith sworn in as interim senator
Cunningham only has himself to blame for the swearing in of foe L. Harvey Smith as state senator last week, sources in the Hudson County Democratic Organization say.
Earlier this year, Cunningham issued a letter with tax bills naming County Executive Tom DeGise personally for the reason why taxes were rising and apparently took pot shots at the county executive in what should have been an official communication.
The DeGise camp – which responded with an official letter of its own a few weeks later – decided Cunningham didn’t get their message, so they sent Smith, a Jersey City councilman, to Trenton to make their point. The problem is, Cunningham, too, will be a state senator in a few months, and DeGise will have to deal with him. A state senator with the power of senatorial courtesy can block a lot of appointments and cause Hudson County significant woes, if Cunningham should seek to continue the feud.
Speaking of Cunningham’s enemies, last week saw the closing of the Nature Creation flower shop in Jersey City Heights, which is run by a Cunningham foe. (Cunningham, however, had nothing to do with the closing.) The shop’s owner, Beane Gaughan is the daughter of DeGise’s Chief of Staff Bill Gaughan. Two years ago, Cunningham appointed Beane to the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority as an apparent favor to Gaughan. She promptly joined financial adviser Jay Booth in a coup to take control of the board. The closing of Beane’s shop should not be seen as too sad an event, since she is expected to get a job with the county with a possible hefty salary.
Federal court tidbits
Former Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon’s plea to overturn the jury’s verdict convicting her of carrying bribes to Janiszewski failed last week. Although she can still appeal the verdict, she will face sentencing in December. Several previously unsympathetic political people have begun to change their opinion about her, saying that in retrospect, they believe she was the least offensive of all the parties involved in the case. Davila-Colon was convicted in July for carrying bribes from Dr. Oscar Sandoval to Janiszewski in a federal sting operation. People’s sympathies have shifted as they learn the details of who got what in regard to the ever expanding scandal, and realize that Davila-Colon got the least.
Meanwhile the trial date for Davila-Colon’s fellow freeholder Bill Braker has yet to be rescheduled. He also faces bribery charges.
Hudson County’s favorite filmmaker, former Guttenberg Mayor Peter LaVilla, was sentenced to four years probation last week and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for using campaign funds to open a personal brokerage account in 1999. Many local political people have a fond place in their hearts for him as part of a David and Goliath tale after he ran against Janiszewski for county executive in 1999. Although LaVilla lost, he had managed to beat Janiszewski in Bayonne.