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Hoboken Titanic hits a financial iceberg, standby as the Administration and City Council rearrange the deck chairs
- Categorized in: 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castallano, 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, Bribes, Payoffs, and Politics, Finance Department
At the February 20, 2008 City Council Meeting, Hoboken resident/former Hoboken CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Michael Lenz addressed the City Council about the present CFO's duties/responsibilities in comparison to a few years ago when Lenz was the CFO.
Lenz said that in today's Finance Department, much of the financial workload has been contracted out to a private accounting firm. This has resulted in less work for the present CFO. The cost of the yearly accounting contract increased this year from $300,000.00 to $324,000.00 per year to cover the additional cost of managing the Hoboken Parking Utility finances.
In response to Lenz's statements, Hoboken Council President Councilwoman Theresa Castellano made it quite clear that she is not "related" to Hoboken CFO George Destefano and that he had always been responsive to her questions. WATCH THE VIDEO.
CONNECTING THE DOTS:
In a May 9, 2005 Hoboken Reporter "Letter to the Editor," Councilwoman Theresa Castellano states; "I am also proud to call Mike [Councilman Michael Russo] my cousin, godson, friend, council colleague..." So we now have the connection between Castellano and Russo, but where does the City CFO George Destefano come into the equation?
- Councilwoman Castellano said she is Councilman Russo's cousin
- Councilwoman Castellano said she is Councilman Russo's Godparent
- Councilman Russo's Uncle, George Destefano, is the current Hoboken CFO. Russo's Mother is the CFO's brother.
What was Councilwoman Castellano thinking when she found the need to distance herself from the present Hoboken CFO? No one at the meeting implied that Castellano was related to the CFO, yet she found it necessary to make it known that she was not related to him while at the same time praising him for his work.
Given the close family interactions between Castellano and Russo, one could safely conclude that even though Castellano might not be technically related to the CFO, she would treat "uncle CFO" as family.
Many times during the discussion of the FY2008 Budget, both Russo and Castellano were quick to point out that the Administration is responsible for the City’s fiscal failures. This brings up the question. Is there a "conflict of interest" between Hoboken City Council President Councilwoman Castellano, Hoboken City Council FINANCE COMMITTEE Chairman Councilman Michael Russo, and the Administration’s Chief Financial Officer? Seems like a serious "checks and balances" issue.
No doubt that there is more than enough "fiscal responsibility" blame to share between the Administration and City Council, but the recently released of the FY2007 budget audit rocked City Hall. Auditor comments reported serious inadequate controls of CASH which prompted one City Councilman to say "For God sake, clearly, this audit indicates that we have got money going out the back door and something needs to be done about it." Was "Uncle CFO" asked at a Council Meeting to explain why the auditors red-flagged the City's CASH handling procedures, especially since the Finance Department would be expected to impliment, monitor, and validate such fiscal procedures? To his credit, Fifth Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham at the February 6, 2008 City Council Meeting suggested a Council workshop to discuss the audit, financial control flaws, and corrective action. "If it happens," it will no doubt be a sellout meeting.
This, my friends, is only the tip of the iceberg. The words of one regular City Council speaker appear to be coming true, “The City of Hoboken is the Titanic which just struck a financial iceberg, yet the City Council and Administration are still rearranging the deck chairs.”
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