Political pro sues school board slate

Ex-Mayor Roberts also named

Carmelo Garcia, Frances Rhodes-Kearns, and Phil DeFalco won three seats on the Board of Education in April of 2008, but according to a lawsuit filed by their public relations consultant in mid-2009, the three candidates neglected to pay $15,821 that they owe his firm.
Anthony Amabile, a longtime political player in Hoboken and president of Meadowlands Associates in Jersey City, filed the suit to recoup the funds, but legal proceedings have been lagging, according to his lawyer.
The lawsuit does not name the treasurer for the slate, Frank Raia.


“If they give me money, [I’ll pay him].” – Frank Raia

Amabile has held many other government contracts in Hudson County, and until two years ago, held a contract to do public relations work for the Board of Education.

Who didn’t pay what?

Amabile’s suit claims that the slate Parents for Progressive Education (Garcia, Rhodes-Kearns, DeFalco), all of whom were successful two years ago, authorized his company to spend the money for advertisements and other publicity materials at weekly strategy meetings running up to the election.
Garcia, Rhodes-Kearns, and DeFalco went on to beat a “reform” slate, although DeFalco resigned in 2009.
The lawsuit states that at one meeting, Mayor David Roberts, who was openly backing the PPE slate, “verbally guaranteed” payment.
Amabile said last week that Roberts promised to cover any expenses that were not covered by a fundraising event, which came up short.
“They just stiffed him on the bill,” said Paul Weeks of Bayonne, Amabile’s attorney.
Roberts’ attorney, Dennis McAlevy of Union City, said his client was dismissed from the case, but would not give any details about the dismissal.
Weeks said he did not hear anything from the court about Roberts’ dismissal from the case, but he said the court has had troubling serving all of the defendants with the lawsuits. Garcia said he had not yet been served.
None of the defendants would comment on the lawsuit.

Political undercurrent

Until recently, Amabile was the coordinator of the Hoboken Municipal Alliance, the city’s grant-funded drug and alcohol abuse committee, which paid him roughly $13,000 per year.
Amabile’s contract with the city was not renewed, according to Fiscal Monitor Judy Tripodi, because his work will be done “in house” so that money that went to Amabile can instead go toward serving the purpose of the grant.
Amabile said he has serious legal questions about his dismissal as coordinator, especially after he had already completed much of the work for grants for 2010. But he said the dismissal had nothing to do with the lawsuit.
Another source close to the proceedings asked why PPE treasurer Frank Raia was not included in the suit, since the treasurer would be responsible for paying the bills.
The source suggested it may have something to do with the fact that Amabile also has a PR contract with the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA).
Amabile’s contract with NHSA is $6,500 annually, according to Fred Pocci, NHSA director.
Raia said he did his job as treasurer and that the outstanding debt is noted on PPE’s state campaign finance report.
“I believe that he’s owed some,” Raia said, but noted that he has no campaign funds left to pay vendors. “If they give me money, [I’ll pay him],” Raia said.
Raia said the contract with NHSA has no relationship to what may have happened with Amabile two years ago during the campaign.
Weeks said he didn’t know why Raia wasn’t included in the suit and added that the suit may be amended to include him going forward.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at tcarroll@hudsonreporter.com.

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