Mayor, husband can’t remove selves from lawsuit

Judge makes decision on latest claim by former housing director

A judge dismissed, in late October, a motion by Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her husband to remove themselves as defendants in a lawsuit filed in May of 2016 by former Hoboken public housing director Carmelo Garcia, who was fired in August, 2014.
Former Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Garcia has claimed Zimmer, her husband Stan Grossbard, and members of the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) conspired to have him removed from his position because he did not support the mayor’s agenda. He also said he was discriminated against because of his race.
Garcia additionally claims Stan Grossbard served as a political advisor to Zimmer and members of the HHA. The HHA is a separate agency from City Hall, although the mayor can appoint one member to the unpaid Board of Commissioners.
Additionally, Garcia alleges that Zimmer, Grossbard, and members of the HHA “created and participated in an enterprise in violation of NJRICO [the New Jersey Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] to engage in political patronage and gain political power,” according to the 25-page Statement of Reasons by Judge Daniel D’Alessandro.
Garcia is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, trebled damages, and attorney fees, interest and costs of the suit, and further relief deemed equitable by the court.
When Garcia was fired, members of the housing board pointed to possible irregularities in how he gave out contracts, and they have since filed their own suit this past April against him.
Among the entities being sued by Garcia — which include the city of Hoboken, the HHA, present and past HHA commissioners — Zimmer and Grossbard sought recently to be removed.

“There is a high bar needed to have even frivolous cases dismissed at this stage, despite filing the motion in good faith.” –Victor Afanador
Louis Zayas, attorney for Garcia, said the judge’s refusal to dismiss them as defendants was a victory for employee civil rights and showed “the mayor and her husband cannot escape responsibility for their actions.”
He said the judge’s ruling allows the New Jersey Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (NJRICO) claims to move forward.
Zimmer’s attorney for this case, Victor Afanador, said by email, “While we disagree with the court’s most recent decision on our motion to dismiss the complaint in lieu of filing an answer, it was neither surprising nor newsworthy. There is a high bar needed to have even frivolous cases dismissed at this stage, despite filing the motion in good faith. Any attempt to mischaracterize this decision, which only permits the parties to proceed with discovery, as somehow validating the merits of Mr. Garcia’s claims, represents either a misunderstanding of the law or an intentional attempt to mislead the public.”
Garcia said, “My family and I are grateful to God that this decisions take us one step closer to vindication against Mayor Zimmer and her husband’s [alleged] retaliation, bossism to harm my reputation.”


This is the most recent finding in the various ongoing legal actions among Garcia, Zimmer, the city, and the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) since 2013.
In 2009 the HHA voted unanimously to hire Garcia as the executive director to oversee the agency. But over time, he became at odds with the Zimmer administration, as members of the new administration gained a majority on the housing board.
The HHA oversees the city’s 1,353 units of federally funded low-income and senior citizen housing. The day-to-day operations are managed by a paid executive director and staff, who are overseen by a seven-member volunteer Board of Commissioners. All of them answer to the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, but HUD does not oversee day-to-day operations.
For decades, the HHA has struggled with various legal and leadership issues, a steady stream of departing directors, and critical audits.
The Zimmer allied board has said it was justified in its termination of Garcia because of various management and contracting issues. Garcia obviously disagrees.
Garcia originally filed a lawsuit alleging job discrimination by the Zimmer administration back in August 2013, before he was fired, when he was at odds with members of the board aligned with Zimmer.
This suit was originally dismissed in December of 2014 and was then refiled in January of 2015 before it was dismissed again in January of 2016. He filed an amended version of the suit in May of 2016.
Around the same time, this past April, the HHA filed suit against Garcia, alleging that he awarded contracts to vendors who gave him campaign donations for Assembly.
When he was fired, the HHA board cited other problems with how he awarded contracts, partly citing a HUD review.

New suit

The newest version of Garcia’s suit alleges that Zimmer, Grossbard, ex-HHA Chair Jake Stuiver, and other commissioners, starting in 2012, “threatened and later terminated [Garcia] because he vocally refused to participate in and repeatedly objected to Mayor Zimmer’s unlawful efforts through her political supporters on the HHA Board of Commissioners, to advance her political agenda and discriminatory policies within that organization.”
In his 25-page ruling, Judge Daniel D’Alessandro said the “Plaintíff’s [Garcia’s] complaint has since added numerous facts to support Mayor Zimmer’s involvement as a conspirator in the racketeering actions necessary to support an NJRICO claim.”
According to the ruling, Garcia’s allegations claim Zimmer used government resources to retaliate against Garcia and that he “has sufficient standing to assert an NJRICO claim against the defendants.”
“The amended complaint alleged in detail that Mayor Zimmer controlled plaintiff’s employment and terminated his employment for the purposes of harming or injuring him, and that she [allegedly] embezzled government resources to retaliate against Garcia. Accordingly, Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s motion to dismiss is denied,” said D’Alessandro.
The judge’s statement of reasons also says the same for her husband Grossbard, citing emails that were made public a few years ago in which Grossbard discusses Garcia’s employment with housing board members. Grossbard does not hold a city position.
“The emails in it of themselves, which state there was dissatisfaction with plaintiff’s employment, provide a nexus between Grossbard’s influence and plaintiffs termination….if the facts are assumed true, the motion is denied since there is a sufficient basis for the claims against Stan Grossbard,” said D’Alessandro.
The email exchanges begin in October of 2012 and extend into July 2013. One email dated Feb. 26, 2013 between Grossbard and then-HHA Chairman Stuiver, Mello, and former commissioner Greg Lincoln talks about three possible options to resolve the conflict between the board and the executive director, including terminating Garcia.
In the email, Grossbard states the board could “vote to terminate the contract and give the 120 days notice, and then proceed to adopt a new procurement process acceptable to the Board.”
In a follow-up email on March 7, Grossbard talks about hiring an attorney who “will not spill the beans.” He mentions a possible option to “terminate his [Garcia’s] contract and move on.” A third email dated March 11 outlines a resolution that might be passed to accomplish this.
Two Hoboken residents who began speaking about Grossbard’s involvement in the issue were ejected from a council meeting last year. Ravi Bhalla, the council president at the time, told the Reporter in December of 2015 they were ejected for speaking about a private citizen (Grossbard) and behaving “in a disorderly manner.”

Marilyn Baer can be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group