Michele Russo, mother of Hoboken councilman, hired by Union City Board of Ed

UNION CITY AND HOBOKEN — After months of rumors about politically connected Hoboken resident Michele Russo possibly getting a local government job, she was hired late last month to work for the Union City Board of Education — despite the fact that the state censured her in 2002 when she was a Hoboken Board of Education member.
This past July, a county government source told the Reporter that Russo, who has run the Hoboken Democratic Party in the past and is the wife of former Mayor Anthony Russo, as well as the mother of current Hoboken Councilman Michael Russo, was up for a county job.
However, Michele Russo ended up not getting that job. Rumors said that after it was reported in the media, county officials changed their minds — but that she was up for a job in Union City instead.
On Oct. 27, the Union City Board of Education voted to hire Michele Russo for a $45,000-per-year job as administrative assistant for the medical department.
Critics of Union City Mayor Brian Stack have often said that the city’s school system has been used as his patronage mill, since he appoints the Board of Education members. Stack’s spokesman, Mark Albiez, said Thursday, in response to this hiring and another employee matter at the same board meeting: “The Board of Education is independent of the city of Union City. The mayor does not have the authority to engage in [their] hiring processes.”
Union City Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger said Russo “filled a need within the district as far as the new health screening center at UCHS.” He said he found her to be the best candidate with her “quality organizational skills.”
In 2002, Russo was censured by the state School Ethics Commission for allegedly using public school students’ addresses to mail out campaign literature. According to the Resolution of Censure, in April of 2001 Russo acquired mailing labels containing student information, including addresses, student ID numbers, and homeroom numbers, to send out pro-Anthony Russo postcards. A censure is the school board’s type of reprimand, the political equivalent of a strongly worded letter. It’s the least severe penalty the state can impose on a school board member. At the time, Robert Bender, then acting chairman of the state’s School Ethics Commission, said the action violated the School Ethics Act.
In addition, in 2006, an assistant U.S. attorney released a memo in relation to an investigation of the towing company that contracted with the city of Hoboken. The memo referred to the fact that Russo had been on the city’s Parking Authority board and said that one of the towing operators claimed that “in 1998, Michelle Russo [allegedly] attempted to extort $5 for each vehicle towed under its Hoboken Parking Authority contract with the city.” The report said that the FBI corroborated the allegation. However, Russo was never charged and no other public information was ever released about whether she was investigated regarding the matter.

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