Councilman Bhalla to Beth Mason: ‘Enough of your vicious lies and defamation’
The following is a point by point refutation of the “vicious lies” and defamation linked by Councilman Ravi Bhalla to Councilwoman Beth Mason in a release earlier today:
The following is a specific and factual response, for the benefit of Hoboken’s
residents, to the malicious lies being spread by Councilwoman Beth Mason:
Recently, Bhalla was fined by the New Jersey Local Finance Board for violating the
Government Ethics Law
Almost four years ago, Councilman Bhalla sought advice from Hoboken’s City Attorney
about whether he may vote on the continuation of an existing contract with an attorney
with whom he shared office space.
He was advised by Hoboken’s City Attorney that it was perfectly permissible to cast a
vote.Upon advice of Counsel, Councilman Bhalla cast his vote. The vote was unanimous
as the matter in question was routine business to renew an pre-existing contract.
Four years later, the New Jersey Local Finance Board determined they disagreed with the
Hoboken City Attorney’s advice to Councilman Bhalla and issued a “Notice of
Violation” The notice of violation from the Division of Community Affairs (DCA)
makes clear on its face that it is simply an accusation, and not a conclusion or
adjudication. The notice and cover letter prominently and expressly says, “Please be
advised that the NOTICE is not a final determination if you desire to avail yourself of the
right to request an administrative hearing.” To further demonstrate how minor this matter
was, the Local Finance Board stated that the $100 fine associated with the notice was
being voluntarily waived by the Local Finance Board.
There is absolutely nothing ambiguous in the Local Finance Board’s statements above.
After reading it, it would be clear to anyone that it is not a finding of guilt on Councilman
Bhalla’s part. Saying or suggesting otherwise is false and defamatory. Councilwoman
Mason has apparently made no effort to contact any DCA personnel and confirm that
Councilman Bhalla has challenged the DCA’s charges, or confirm that the notice of
violation is not a finding of a violation.
Ravi Bhalla became partners with a law firm that represents the City of Hoboken and the
firm continued to represent the City after he became a partner.
This is an outright false statement. The facts are the following. Councilman Bhalla’s
commenced employment with his employer, Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader (“Florio
Perrucci”) on August 1, 2013. The firm did work for the City most recently in two
matters, one, the Sweeney v. Hoboken litigation in the Appellate Division, and second, in
connection with labor negotiations.
Hoboken’s briefing closed in the Sweeney matter on January 22, 2013, and Florio
Perrucci has done no work and has billed no time in that matter since January 2013.
Councilman Bhalla was not associated with, or in discussions to become associated with,
Florio Perrucci, in January 2013. In fact, the discussions that led to Councilman Bhalla
becoming associated with Florio Perrucci occurred in mid-June and early July 2013.
As to the labor negotiation services rendered to the City by the Florio Perrucci firm, this
activity was terminated by early July 2013, when Councilman Bhalla advised Hoboken
Corporation Counsel that he was about to accept a position there. Councilman Bhalla has
abstained from voting on approving any bills to the Florio Perrucci firm since mid-June
2013, when active employment discussions got underway, and since that date, and has
not voted “to pay the . . . legal bills” as Councilwoman Mason falsely claims. The recent
memorandum from Corporation Counsel Mellissa Longo, which lays out Councilman
Bhalla’s abstentions on Florio Perrucci bills since mid-June, is a matter of pubic record
which Councilwoman Mason continues to ignore.
Put simply, when Florio Perrucci took Councilman Bhalla on as a partner, it did not gain
any benefit with respect to its relationship with the City of Hoboken. To the contrary, it
lost both the benefit of its modest existing legal contract with the City of Hoboken and
the opportunity to benefit from future contracts. Councilwoman Mason’s reckless
publishing of information that is false, and which she knows to be false, is defamatory.
There appears to have been no effort on the part of Councilwoman Mason to contact the
City Clerk, Corporation Counsel, the Mayor, or Florio Perrucci management about these
allegations, any one of whom could have easily confirmed and corroborated the timing
and sequence of events that are outlined above.
Councilman Bhalla advocated for Florio Perrucci to get legal work from the Hoboken
This is completely false, and Councilman Bhalla has never “advocated” for Florio
Perrucci for any legal work from the City or its instrumentalities including the Hoboken
Housing Authority, at any time.
Councilman Bhalla has not answered questions about when his negotiations with Florio
In an article in the Hoboken Reporter, published October 26, 2013, Councilman Bhalla
fully answered this question, indicating that they began in mid-June, and he began
abstaining from votes for payments to the firm immediately thereafter. In that same
article, for which Councilwoman Mason was interviewed, she not only acknowledged
Councilman Bhalla’s explanation, but said she found it to be a “reasonable answer.”
Why Councilwoman Mason would resort to a lie in an email to her constituents just days
later is baffling.
Councilman Bhalla “made maximum campaign contributions that resulted in hundreds-
of-thousands of dollars in no-bid contracts for his law firm.”
While Councilman Bhalla has, as a private attorney, been a party to professional services
agreements with Union City and Newark, a review of public records will show that he
never made any reportable “campaign contributions” to any officeholder or candidate in
either of those municipalities, or to an entity that could legally be managed or controlled
by any officeholder or candidate, in any municipality.
Even if Councilman Bhalla had made what Councilwoman Mason calls “campaign
contributions,” the assertion that contributions “resulted” in contracts for his firm is per
se libelous, as it implies the commission of a crime. To be clear, there were no reportable
contributions to candidates or officeholders, or to entities that could lawfully be managed
by candidates or officeholders, and there is no link between contributions and the
contracts he received. Nor, for that matter, has the Star-Ledger or the Jersey Journal
ever said so. This statement is recklessly defamatory.
Councilman Bhalla “bounced checks from his trust account.”
This is false because no check was bounced, i.e., returned or not processed for
insufficient funds, from his trust account. In fact, the check in question was cleared by
his bank and his client received all his money. Never was there a return for insufficient
funds. The bank immediately released all funds due to his client and nothing “bounced.”
Councilman Bhalla “voted for a contract for a lawyer who paid him rent.”
The attorney at issue, Paul Condon, never paid any rent to Councilman Bhalla. Messrs.
Condon and Bhalla paid rent to a common landlord, but neither was the landlord or tenant
of the other, and no rent had ever been exchanged between them.
|Beth Mason is being called out for her repeated, alleged defamation by Councilman Ravi Bhalla.|