In a surprise maneuver surrounding the county power broker’s selection for the 33rd Assembly seat primary, five Hoboken residents have filed a legal election challenge questioning HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia’s continuing in his current federally paid position while simultaneously running for a NJ Assembly seat.
The choice of Garcia was reportedly a selection by State Senator Brian Stack with the HCDO (Hudson County Democratic Organization.) The Democratic primary winner in June is considered the precursor to an election victory in November with a weak Republican and independent challengers.
The release from the law office of Flavio L. Komuves shows five Hoboken residents as plaintiffs. The residents are generally affiliated with Hoboken’s reform movement and the legal challenge as outlined in the release poses legal concerns on several fronts, both State and through HUD, the federal agency overseeing Hoboken’s housing authority.
The basis for the election challenge questions Carmelo Garcia’s holding both the HHA position and the Assembly seat stating,
“a conflict of interest prohibition under HUD regulations also bars Mr. Garcia’s holding a legislative office while he is HHA Executive Director.”
An update to the Hatch Amendment last year permitting some federal employees previously barred from running for state office, believed by some opening the door to Garcia’s assembly candidacy was addressed directly in the release, “… the fact remains that Mr. Garcia’s salary is still paid completely, directly, or indirectly, by federal dollars, making his candidacy void under that federal law.”
Garcia previously said he plans to continue in the role of HHA Director and its scheduled increased salary from $157,000 to $165,000 as of September 1st while taking on the duties of 33rd Assemblyman. In recent months, Garcia has been the point of controversy when a scathing letter from HUD criticized his procurement process overall and called his attempts to contract HHA legal counsel Charles Daglian again “legally flawed.” (MSV covered that story exclusively here
Both Carmelo Garcia and Hoboken City Councilman Ravi Bhalla who was vying for the spring Democratic primary seat being vacated by Assemblyman Ruben Ramos who is running for Hoboken mayor were not available for comment.
Other Hoboken candidates reportedly interested in the 33rd Assembly seat included Councilwoman Beth Mason, developer Frank “Pupie” Raia and Councilman Michael Russo. State Senator Brian Stack made the selection of Garcia in a late surprise pick according to numerous other reports.
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