Criminal or Coverup, PayrollGate explodes!


The following exclusive investigative report is an accumulation of MSV’s efforts, analysis, and opinion now into the tenth year covering Hoboken government, politics, and corruption. All the opinions as stated below are the sole responsibility and copyright of

City Council learns high-powered criminal defense attorney brought in by the Bhalla Administration to “investigate” its payroll discrepancies after prior communications manager’s separation agreement 

Hoboken PayrollGate lands like a bomb on City Hall

In a stunning development, City Council President Jen Giattino learned her query on inflated payroll inside the Hoboken mayor’s office has led to the Bhalla Administration hiring a criminal defense attorney.

At the first council meeting on January 2nd, Giattino inquired about an odd increase in payroll out of the Hoboken mayor’s office.

Her query saw offered first incorrect information of “partial” salary adjustments among three mayoral aides and later, the discovery that four mayoral aides were on the payroll with two communication managers simultaneously.

Both the public and the City Council saw nothing by way of clarification on any details about the oddity last month or prior to the January 2nd meeting.

Behind the scenes, however, the Bhalla Administration was scrambling.

After her initial announcement last night, Giattino stated she’d been given dozens of pages on the matter including a “separation agreement” apparently for former communications manager Santiago Melli-Huber.

Enter criminal defense attorney, John Lynch, who briefly said he was in Hoboken on the matter for an unspecified “investigation” and “potential litigation.”

Lynch is a criminal defense attorney based in Union City.

Senior criminal defense attorney John Lynch last night appearing before
the Hoboken City Council.

The criminal defense attorney was hired at the recommendation of Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia through the Joint Insurance Fund (JIF).

Why has the Bhalla Administration hired a senior criminal defense attorney for a former employee who worked inside the mayor’s office for eight months and apparently departed not with a resignation as previously announced but under a separation agreement?

A public announcement from the Office of the Mayor declared the departure a resignation, effective the end of November and then later amended to mid-December.

A separation agreement of any kind between a municipal employee and the mayor’s office and City of Hoboken suggests an added financial benefit and waiver to any and all future claims to litigation.

Any settlement package however agreed upon would require City Council approval and nothing of the kind was presented to the legislative body by the Bhalla Administration.

First, let’s review the series of facts that have come to light at last night’s City Council meeting.

Let’s go to the videotape!


Key comments:
Council President Jen Giattino, on not immediately diving into closed session on the “payroll discrepancies” out of the mayor’s office and newly revealed “separation agreement” with the former communications manager.
“There’s been no transparency with the public or the council (on PayrollGate) and if we only discuss things in closed session; it will continue.”
Councilman Mike DeFusco to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia:
“…excessive payment for a (former) employee? What litigation are we talking about?”
“Why was an employee on the payroll that was no longer employed with the City?”
Aloia offered no response and DeFusco said that had nothing to do with any (potential) litigation.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher to Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia.
“Why wasn’t the JIF notified when you thought there was potential litigation previously? Why did you wait until January 7th?”
“We’re trying to decide are we erring on the side of transparency or are we erring on the side of what feels like a coverup?… It’s pretty damn frustrating.”

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