Councilman Mike Russo to face potential charges and removal of HHA seat

Update: 5-3-2011

This resolution was on the agenda but removed by the sponsors due to the death of Mike Russo’s grandmother.  Expect there to be no further discussion when  Beth Mason and Mike Russo team up with Terry Castellano, Tim Occhipinti and Nino Giacchi to eject this from the agenda and prevent any further public discussion on the proposed action.

Councilman Mike Russo thought by some to have escaped further damage in the City Council for his chatter with FBI informant Solomon Dwek in the infamous bribe tapes faces a new potential hurdle – the loss of his seat on the Hoboken Housing Authority.

A resolution for the Wednesday City Council meeting calls for a prosecutor to be brought in for a hearing charging he abused his appointment powers to the HHA demanding a commissioner’s political support and offering to expedite a developer’s project in return for  an illegal donation.

The resolution specifically charges Mike Russo with dereliction of his duties and misconduct for both his admissions on the tape and his agreement in the resolution put forward by his council allies at the last council meeting.  Russo himself voted on that  watered down resolution introduced at the last meeting stating his actions were “unbecoming.”

The resolution introduced by the Russo-Mason faction passed with five votes while a stronger resolution calling for censure and Russo’s removal from the HHA introduced by the reform council members in advance of the meeting failed in a party line vote.

The new resolution’s passage introduced by Councilwoman Carol Marsh would bring in a judge to act as a hearing officer on the charges and a prosecutor to pursue the matter.

Surveillance tapes showed Mike Russo agreeing to accept $5,000 and instructing a middleman to make it out to his campaign committee “Russo for Hoboken.”  At the same meeting the FBI informant promised more of such monies later.  Contrary to Mike Russo’s claim, he did anything but straighten out Solomon Dwek from such notions.  The truth of the tapes show he was actually favorable to the new luxury development and this within a span of minutes in meeting someone for the first time.

A potential case with passage of the resolution against Mike Russo would be set for early May.  Citywide elections are scheduled for each of the ward seats May 10th.

The resolution even if not passed could be problematic to the Russo-Mason alliance with the election next month.  The odor of corruption has followed their council ‘majority’ since the swing vote installation of Tim Occhipinti in the 4th ward special election last November.  The dust has not settled on a review of voting problems in his campaign making its way up to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office.

Some weeks back, a city audit made public revealed two unqualified people were receiving health benefits one being Mike Russo’s father, the ex-con and former mayor Anthony Russo.  The cost for to the city and taxpayers in the latest Russo scandal was estimated to be in the ballpark of $100,000.

Talking Ed Note:  The resolution requires five votes for approval.  Councilwoman Terry Castellano who was heard by several witnesses recently telling residents on a lower Hudson St. building three reform members of the council met with Solomon Dwek and that people were “picking on Mike,” is a sure bet to vote against this resolution on her godson and cousin.

If the same voting block holds with Tim “I’m independent” Occhipinti who would not dare cross his paymasters and your less than independent voice Councilman Nino Giacchi votes similarly as last time against censure and Carol Marsh’s resolution, the resolution will be  one vote shy of passage.

Although MSV has already seen early reports of vote by mail activity in the fourth ward leading into the BoE race and May race, it’s not clear yet if Tim Occhipinti will generate the volume rising to 500 submissions and approaching 50% of his total vote as he did last November.

Patricia Waiters who last week dropped out of the 2nd ward council race at the council forum in protest against corruption, appeared at a council meeting earlier this year lamenting the exploitation of residents in the HHA.  She detailing an account of a woman who was instructed to show up at with a ten dollar bill and vote for the candidate with the letters 9D written on it.

9D was the Tim Occhipinti line.  MSV previously posted the video of Patricia Waiter’s remarks.  Other local media ignored her although several were in attendance at that same city council meeting.

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