HOBOKEN TAX COLLECTOR - With loophole shut on disclosures, he misses deadline

HOBOKEN TAX COLLECTOR - With loophole shut on disclosures, he misses deadline

May 05, 2007 JJ

HOBOKEN - The city's tax collector thumbed his nose at the City Council and mayor this week after refusing to file a financial disclosure form as required under a city law approved in March.

Louis Picardo, who makes roughly $112,000 a year as the city's tax collector, had previously refused to file a disclosure statement, which requires officials to list sources of income and interests in property.

A city code enacted in the 1980s specifically requires a tax collector to file, but Picardo and others said they received an opinion from then-city attorney Joseph Sherman stating the state's local government ethics law enacted a decade later had invalidated the local code.

The March ordinance was unanimously approved and specifically mentions 25 city positions that are required to file the statements, along with members of the city's various boards and committees already required to do so under state law. City Council members made it clear that the ordinance was intended to close that apparent loophole.

The deadline to file the disclosure statements was Monday, and everyone has complied - with the exception of Picardo, said City Attorney Steve Kleinman.

Picardo did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

The ordinance also lays out penalties for not filing the statements, which range from a fine of $100 to termination. But first, the issue must be brought before the state's Local Finance Board.

"If people want to flout the law, or thumb their noses at City Council and the people of Hoboken, they must know there are consequences," said City Councilman Peter Cammarano, sponsor of the ordinance.

Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, a supporter of the ordinance, didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Construction Code Official Al Arezzo came under scrutiny after he refused to file financial disclosure statements prior the March ordinance, especially after it was reported that he is at the center of investigations being conducted by the state Department of Community Affairs and the Attorney General's Office.

Arezzo, who earns an annual salary of $109,000, lists an interest in four properties in Hoboken, including property on Newark Street where he collects rent money from the city for housing police horse stables.

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