Between the lines What the tapes say

Federal authorities may be having some difficulty in using thousands of hours of tape recordings made during their investigations of Hudson County corruption – partly because so much was said about so many people they have neither time nor resources to check out all the leads.

Using many of these tapes as evidence in one trial could also pose a risk of giving up a thread of another investigation, sources said.

This comes at a time when several prominent vendors doing business with Hudson County may have been approached about things picked up on tapes during various sting operations in Hudson County.

Worse for federal investigators is that even if statements are caught on tape, they may or may not be true. Thus, vendors who have been informed of their names being mentioned on tape may make legal challenges to keep their names from being released.

The use of tapes as evidence in the conviction of Former Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon revealed only a handful of characters beyond the principle participants in the case – although the tapes had been clearly edited. One tape played at the trial recording a conversation between Dr. Oscar Sandoval and Davila-Colon had gaps as long as five minutes, often picking up in the middle of conversations.

While prominent Hudson County officials are mentioned, they are often out of context.

League of Municipalities

Although last week Between the Lines poked fun at the 2003 League of Municipalities Convention, some serious political issues were handled by Hudson’s politicos.

Jersey City Councilman Junior Maldonado’s event at Caesar’s drew more than 400 people including Gov. Jim McGreevey, State Sen. Majority Leader Bernard Kenny and State Assembly Speaker Albio Sires.

Maldonado said about 400 people came to his event, representing a good cross section of the political world.

“We’re looking to make this an annual event,” he said.

The purpose of the event, he said, was to bring together Latino officials in order to begin building a statewide agenda. Maldonado said Latino leaders in the state’s urban centers such as Camden, Paterson, Jersey City and others face similar issues, and by getting together, these leaders might be able to find common solutions.

Maldonado said he has always taken advantage of the workshops the convention offers, where he can learn a lot about new concepts in governing, such as how to deal with budgets or, in one workshop this year, the concept of on-line government programs.

“Jersey City doesn’t have e-government,” he said, envisioning a time when it will.

This year, Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan took part in the convention for the first time.

“We were involved with workshops on the governor’s Smart Growth initiative,” he said, “which deals with open space and water quality.”

Sheehan said he got involved with the convention partly to counter the overwhelming voice of the building trades and the promotion of overdevelopment throughout the state.

“We set up a booth and found a lot of people were excited that we were there,” Sheehan said.

In meeting with Hudson officials at the convention, Sheehan was particularly excited by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s open space trust fund, citing it as one of the great successes for the environment.

Jersey City’s homeland security

One feature of this year’s convention was Mayor Glenn Cunningham’s address at the National Security Conference.

Cunningham represented New Jersey at the first of a series of conferences being organized by the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, a unit of the Federal Department of Commerce, to address lessons learned and successful practices demonstrated in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The conferences focus on improving cooperation between private industry and local, state and federal governments in protecting essential services in the event of attack or security breach.

At this event, Cunningham announced that Jersey City would develop its own Division of Homeland Security, noting that the city’s security assessment as a transportation hub and waterfront resource showed Jersey City at risk.

“Considering the density of the population and the number of other key elements such as the number of power plants and substations, not to mention the skyscrapers, we could be a target,” said mayoral spokesperson Stan Eason, who said the city’s homeland security would be structured similar to those of the federal and state governments, drawing on public safety and other elements.

Peace at last

The convention may also have sown seeds towards healing the divisions in the Hudson County Democratic Party in the wake of the resignation of Robert Janiszewski as county executive in September of 2001.

Union County State Senator Ray Lesniak apparently brought Kenny and Cunningham, two of Hudson County’s state senators, together for a meeting at the convention.

Lesniak also apparently had worked behind the scenes to help get Hudson County’s Kenny re-elected as the Senate’s majority leader.

“He acted almost like his campaign manager in getting other people to support,” one source said.

Kenny is seen by some as the person who will begin the healing process in Hudson County, someone who can sit down and mend fences among the various factions.

Meanwhile, newly elected legislators Cunningham, Brian Stack, Lou Manzo and Anthony Chiappone are expected to attend orientation on Dec. 10. Stack said he has not yet named a staff, nor found an Assembly headquarters for his district.

Although not yet confirmed, Manzo is expected to name Gerry McCann, Kevin Lyons, and Rick Boyce to his legislative staff. McCann is a former Jersey City Mayor, Lyons is a member of the Jersey City Recreation Department, and Boyce is part of the Jersey City Incinerator Authority.

Bits and pieces

Why was Jersey City’s mayor at a Hoboken meeting last week? Glenn Cunningham showed up at Hoboken’s City Council meeting Wednesday night with a slew of aides. When asked why he was there, he said it was to support newly elected councilman Michael Russo. He also said that Russo, who has a few weeks of elected government service under his belt, might make a good mayor someday. Russo ran for his indicted father Anthony Russo’s seat last month and won. Since current mayor David Roberts is an ally of Cunningham-enemy Rep. Robert Menendez, it seems that his statement has less to do with Cunningham’s concern for the future of Hoboken than for the future of county politics. Jersey City had its own important meetings going on Wednesday – both a City Council and a Planning Board meeting.

Eileen Gaughan disputed part of a report in the Nov. 30 edition of Between the Lines, saying she had not been part of any plot with Jay Booth to take over the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority.

“I was one of the commissioners that voted to fire Jay,” she said. “I have a good working relationship with the Mayor [Cunningham].”

In Hoboken, Mayor Dave Roberts said he has been meeting with two or three former critics, progressive people in the community, in order to bring them into the community – although he would not publicly name names.


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