Ethics charges filed against Hoboken School Board President

Garcia allegedly voted on his brother, employer

By Tom Jennemann
Reporter staff writer

The power struggle at the Hoboken Board of Education ratcheted up to the next level last week when a school board member filed state ethics charges against board President Carmelo Garcia. The charges, according to a source, were filed on Sept. 12 with the School Ethics Commission. They allege that Garcia lobbied Superintendent of Schools Patrick Gagliardi to hire his brother for a custodial job; that Garcia then voted on his brother's employment; and that Garcia later tried to get a district employee to alter the meeting minutes to say he had abstained.

The charges also allege that Garcia voted on a one-year $60,000 public relations contract with FitzMedia Inc., a company owned by Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, for whom Garcia has been a low-level aide since 1998 at $13,000 per year.

Full-time, Garcia works at City Hall as the Director of Human Services, one of the top jobs in the administration. His position as a school board trustee is unpaid.

Recently, he was being considered for a job as head of the Hoboken Housing Authority, and around that time, the housing board fired their interim director. But in the end, their director was hired back.

All in the family

According to a source familiar with the charges, who asked not to be identified, the first few charges deal with Garcia's alleged attempts to get a job for his brother, Sammy.

The complaint charges that Garcia voted on Aug. 30 to appoint Sammy to a paid custodial position within the school district.

The charges, according to a source, also say that Garcia asked a district employee to alter the minutes of the meeting later. Board members are allowed to change their vote if a mistake has been made, but the legal procedure is to do this during an open public session.

At that same Aug. 30 meeting, a vote came up for a $60,000 contract for a local public relations firm, FitzMedia. Inc. Fitz Media is owned by Maurice Fitzgibbons, who is a county freeholder. The Board of Education has given numerous public relations contracts to politically connected firms or individuals over the years.

Garcia was one of the members who voted for the contract.

This newest contract includes promoting new programs, and advertising events such as the school plays. If a school year is 180 days, the contract comes to $333 per day.

Garcia is employed by the freeholder board, and is currently assigned to Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons said Wednesday that while Garcia is assigned to him, he was never responsible for Garcia's hiring. "He is assigned to me, but I'm not the appointing authority," Fitzgibbons said. He added that it's the county executive and the county director of personnel who hire freeholder aides.

Fitzgibbons added that he never asked Garcia to lobby for FitzMedia's contract, and to his knowledge, he never did.

The freeholder board is allowed to retain a certain number of aides, just as state senators and assemblyman are allowed to hire up to $100,000 of aides each. These positions can run from $500 a year to several thousand, and often go to close political allies.

Garcia was not at City Hall on Thursday and on Friday morning.

Friday afternoon, Garcia acknowledged that he had been served with the complaint Thursday. He said he understands that the matter will be reviewed by the Ethics Commission.

He said that on the advice of his attorney, he cannot comment on the ethics complaint other than to say that he "will continue to place the children of Hoboken first."

A web of political intrigue

But there is much more to the story.

These ethics charges are the latest episode in the politically dysfunctional soap opera of the Hoboken Board of Education.

Last month, there was an altercation in City Hall over whether former longtime board member David Anthony should be hired as a part-time board secretary. Garcia was so angry at the prospect that he broke his hand by punching a wall. The wall was unharmed.

At recent meetings, personal accusations have been made and screaming matches have become commonplace. In short, there's a massive power struggle going on.

One source said the problems stem from Garcia's leadership and his attempts to keep power and stymie board actions.

At the Aug. 30 board meeting, Garcia attempted to block David Anthony's resignation, a step Anthony had to take in order to move to the secretary's job.

The unnamed source last week said that Garcia was not trying to block the move because he cared about the district, but because he was on the losing end of a power struggle.

Garcia said two weeks ago that he had broken his hand because he was "fighting for the children." Then later, when Garcia tried to block Anthony's resignation and hiring, he said that under board by-laws, only the board president and superintendent have the authority to place new items on the agenda during a meeting. He said that Anthony's supporters, including members Theresa Burns and Frank Raia (who had run for mayor with Burns on his ticket), were not following proper procedure. He then stormed out of the meeting.

At the time, Garcia questioned Raia and Burns' motives and said their moves were nothing more than quid pro quo, and that Anthony was using his position on the board for personal profit. Anthony was replaced on the board by Ron Rosenberg, who, like Burns, had run for council on Raia's mayoral ticket this past spring.

But the unnamed source said last week that Garcia is being duplicitous by accusing Raia, Burns and Anthony of having political motives, while at the very same meeting he voted on his brother's and his political ally's contract.

Comments (0)

New comments are currently disabled.

Related Links

Email to Friend

Fill in the form below to send this article to a friend:

Email to Friend
* Your Name:
* Your Email:
* Friend's Name:
* Friend's Email:
* Security Image:
Security Image Generate new
Copy the numbers and letters from the security image
* Message: