Peter Cammarano had already chosen the color for the new paint in his corner office in City Hall: a shade of blue called “Shakespeare.” He didn’t realize then that tragedy was in the cards.
Just four weeks after Gov. Jon Corzine had called him the new, young face of the Democratic Party, Cammarano resigned his position as mayor at noon on Friday, July 31. This came a week after he was arrested along with 43 other politicians and religious leaders as part of a statewide FBI corruption sting.
Cammarano originally pledged not to resign and to fight the charges, but rallies by citizens and pressure from Gov. Corzine over the last week forced him to resign.
“Regrettably, it has turned out that the controversy surrounding the charges against me has become a distraction to me and impediment to the functioning of Hoboken government,” Cammarano wrote. “This controversy has also been a terrible burden on my family.”
He also said he was innocent of the extortion charges against him, and that he still intends to fight them.
Cammarano’s resignation followed a series of resignations of members of his transition team, as well as his chief of staff, Joe Garcia, who resigned Tuesday.
On Friday, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, who was among those calling for Cammarano to resign, said, “The whole situation is just extremely unfortunate, not just for Peter, but for the residents of Hoboken. Today I think he did the right thing in stepping down. The city needs to heal and move forward in a positive direction. My heart goes out to Peter and to his family.”
Numerous residents called for Cammarano to resign last week, in a protest in of the mayor’s house on Saturday, in a large rally in front of City Hall on Monday evening, and in letters to the Reporter. (After the resignation, the Reporter decided to still run the letters, grouping them at the end – see letters, p. 39).
On Friday, most residents interviewed said that it was right that Cammarano resign, and some were pleased that Council President Dawn Zimmer, a recent Cammarano election opponent, will take over as acting mayor. Others said they didn’t know a lot about Zimmer.
This past Monday morning, in an exclusive interview with the Reporter, Cammarano had repeated his intent to stay in office. He also refuted a report in the New York Times that he was once sued for not paying child support for his first child, whom he had had with his high school girlfriend.
“Today I think he did the right thing in stepping down.” – Ruben Ramos Jr.
No matter how professional Cammarano tried to be in the week between his arrest and resignation, City Hall employees were losing faith that the city’s business could continue with so many distractions.
Holed up at home since Thursday
On Thursday, Cammarano faced growing pressure from state officials. Close friends said he faced pressure from his family as well. He and his wife have an infant daughter.
Cammarano spent Thursday morning in City Hall, but went straight home after lunch. There, new Public Safety Director Angel Alicea and City Attorney Kleinman met him at his house and discussed his predicament. At the meeting, Cammarano did not decide what to do. Leaving the house, Kleinman and Alicea said Cammarano had not decided to resign.
Around the same time, media sources were getting wind of the fact that Corzine had said at a press event in Montclair that Cammarano was going to resign. But neither Cammarano nor his defense attorney, Joseph Hayden, would confirm that. It seemed that the only one confirming it was Corzine.
Cammarano never returned to City Hall that day. News reporters camped out at his house on Bloomfield Street and at City Hall, hoping for a statement. Overnight, one supporter taped two signs to his front gate telling him not to resign. But she was clearly in the minority.
By Friday morning, even more reporters and cameramen were lurking outside of the mayor’s house. A neighbor walking by sneered at them that City Hall was downtown. A female passer-by said, “Is this where he lives? This doesn’t happen in Massachusetts.”
Around 8:45 a.m. on Friday, Kleinman entered Cammarano’s house to fetch a resignation letter, which he then delivered to City Clerk James Farina at City Hall. The letter said the resignation was effective at noon.
At noon, Council President Dawn Zimmer, who had lost a close election to Cammarano a month earlier, was sworn in as acting mayor.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.