In Hackensack, Gaines Goes After Labrosse Team’s Claim about Councilman David Sims

In the toughest contest of the season, Mayor John P. Labrosse caught it from both ends Wednesday in Hackensack, with the Lara Rodriguez Team (otherwise known as Hackensack United) zeroing in on what it cites as a false campaign statement about a Labrosse running mate; and Councilwoman Deborah Keeling-Geddis demanding that the city manager remove from the city’s website newsletter images that she describes as “nothing more than political propaganda for the mayor and deputy mayor as they run for re-election in May.”

First to the Rodriguez complaint.

Caseen Gaines, Team Rodriguez’s campaign manager, took issue with a resume posted on the Labrosse Team’s Facebook page, highlighting what he says is the fabricated claim that Councilman David Sims (pictured above), a Labrosse Team running mate, “made history as the first African-American Police Commissioner in Bergen County.”

“The Labrosse/Canestrino Team has repeatedly deflected from discussing their record, and is so devoid  of  accomplishments  that  they  literally  have to make  them up,” said Gaines. “I’m  beginning  to  worry  that  Mayor Labrosse actually believes the statements his out-of-town Campaign Manager writes for him.”

On the same week that the Labrosse Team smacked him for playing politics on school time, teacher turned political operative Gaines then flashed the “criminal implications” card, going through the history.

Labrosse  and Deputy  Mayor Kathy Canestrino  created the  title  of  Police  Commissioner for  Sims  several  years  ago, said the Rodriguez Team campaign manager, even though no  such  position is permitted  under  Hackensack’s  form  of  government.  Sims  then  had business cards made, identifying himself as Police Commissioner, listing the Hackensack Police Department address and phone number, and depicting the official Hackensack Police insignia, Gaines said.

“When it became known around town that Sims was handing out the cards and passing himself off as a law enforcement officer, a former prosecutor addressed the issue of the ‘made-up’ position at the September 2, 2014 City Council meeting,” Gaines said. “The Labrosse/Canestrino Administration’s own City  Attorney,  Joseph  Morris,  publicly  advised  Sims  that  ‘there  is  no  Police  Commissioner’ under Hackensack’s form of government.

Sims then digested the information that he was committing a crime with his actions, Gaines added, noting that according to New Jersey state law, impersonating a Law Enforcement Officer is a fourth degree crime punishable by  one  and  a  half  years  in  prison  and  a  $10,000  fine.  A  “shaken  Sims” in Gaines’ words,  thanked  the  former prosecutor for “enlightening” him and said, “I will rip up all those cards.”

Phil Swibinski, campaign spokesman for Labrosse and company, struck back in a statement.

“The Zisa city council slate hit a new low today by insulting Bergen County’s first African American Police Commissioner and accusing him of committing a serious crime,” Swibinski said. “This is typical of the heavy handed intimidation and bullying that has become synonymous with the thirty year rule of the Zisa family political dynasty in Hackensack.”

Swibinski said that on July 1, 2013, the Mayor and City Council adopted a resolution appointing Sims to become the city’s Police Commissioner in order to address public concerns about blatant corruption in the Hackensack Police Department after the multiple criminal convictions of ex-Police Chief Ken Zisa and the explosive allegations that numerous police officers had been punished by Chief Zisa for refusing to support the Zisa machine’s political candidates and campaigns. The City paid millions of dollars to settle these lawsuits from officers who were abused by Chief Zisa.

“Councilman Sims has worked hard to help restore confidence in our fine Police Department by acting as a liaison between the community, the city council and the department. He does this outstanding work without any additional compensation. His work as Police Commissioner along with his years of dedicated service to the city’s youth, were cited by the Bergen County NAACP in 2016 when he was named the recipient of the prestigious Julian Bond Award,” Swibinski said.

He noted that the NAACP honored Sims for his service to our community.
“And now he’s been smeared by the corrupt Zisa machine,” said Labrosse, himself going to his running mate’s aid.  “He is still a major asset to the city today in efforts to help clean up the mess that Ken Zisa created in the Police Department. The Zisa candidates should apologize and retract their foolish charges, but we won’t hold our breath waiting for that to happen.”

Then there’s the other team challenging Labrosse and company, as Councilwoman Keeling-Geddis objected to a posting of another kind by the mayor, this one on the town website.

“The so-called newsletters are out of date, contain misleading information and are  nothing more than political propaganda paid for by the taxpayers of this city to benefit the re-election campaign of the  mayor and deputy mayor,” said Keeling-Geddis, demanding that Mayor John Labrosse and Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino pay the $50,000 cost of the mailers from their campaign account, rather than stick the taxpayers with the bill.

“Every day that the mailers are up on the city website is a day of deception and insult to residents by Mayor Labrosse and Mrs. Canestrino,” added Keeling Geddis. “There is nothing newsworthy in those  mailers and they should be taken down from the taxpayer funded website immediately.”

Keeling-Geddis noted that she was the first to raise the issue about the impropriety of the flyers when she questioned the mayor and other city officials in early February about why she was never consulted about the content of the newsletters or why she does not appear in them. She said she is especially concerned about the latest city-funded  flyer that features only Labrosse and Canestrino and makes unsubstantiated claims about the progress of redevelopment in the city.

“It looks exactly like a campaign flyer,” said Keeling Geddis, who is running for re-election on a different slate than the mayor, and three other incumbent councilpersons. The councilwoman says she has yet to receive all the information about how the flyers were paid for, since there is no line item in the budget for them, and how the mailing list for the newsletters was assembled.

“I asked for this information in early February, it’s now late March, I want my questions answered,” she said.

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