by Barbara Camacho
Mayor Steve Fulop was asked a very simple question by a member of the organization of CivicJC – would he release the tape?
For those inside of Jersey City, the question was clear – this is a scandal that we have now been contending with for weeks, a question heard often during lunch breaks, community events, and Sundays in Church. An issue so important that the NAACP has recently gotten involved and a Judge has been forced to rule.
Outside of Jersey City the question is not so obvious. Last month, public reports surfaced that Muhammed Akil, then Mayor’s Fulop’s chief of staff, and Shawn Thomas, then deputy director of the city Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce, attempted to steer a city contract and that a conversation about the effort was actually recorded accidentally in a voicemail left for the city’s business administrator. On September 27, through his Twitter account, Mayor Fulop admitted to hearing the tape, but has chosen to dismiss the requests of his constituents. Akil left the administration amid another scandal the following year and Thomas remains an employee of the city.
When Mayor Fulop was asked at the debate on Saturday why the administration opposed immediate release of the accidental recording so the public could make an informed decision, he was aggressive, evasive and duplicitous, ignoring the question and attacking CivicJC instead.
It should be noted, that CivicJC has never endorsed a political candidate. To suggest otherwise is untrue.
CivicJC has steadfastly advocated for honest, open and transparent government for well over a decade and it worked hand in glove with Councilman Fulop on the groundbreaking pay-to-play ordinance.
During this time Mayor Fulop embraced CivicJC, especially when we publicly critiqued the Healy administration policies.
To now minimize our organization and ignore legitimate requests for transparency is disturbing, but the attacks he has waged against us is telling.
What does Mayor Fulop have to hide?
Since knowledge of this tape first surfaced, his administration has claimed that it has consistently not commented on pending litigation. This is disingenuous at best and mendacious at worst. A quick online search yields many instances where Mayor Fulop has commented on on-going litigation.
For instance, Mayor Fulop repeatedly commented on the Port Authority lawsuit, and he commented on the police pursuit that injured an innocent motorist. Moreover, this administration commented on Cowan’s whistleblower lawsuit by calling the allegations fiction and the cancelled revaluation contract lawsuit by doubling down on continuing to pursue appeals.
Examples like these abound.
Evasion on why Mayor Fulop opposes the release of the tape diminishes public confidence in the integrity of the bidding process and therefore, Mayor Fulop must release the tape immediately.
by Barbara Camacho
Barbara Camacho serves as the acting President of CivicJC. Civic JC, a non-partisan, Jersey City community-based initiative advocating for strong government practices through neighborhood information sharing and strong discourse of progressive initiatives.