Meeting Cancelled At Last Minute After Councilmembers Leave City Hall
Council members Peter Cunningham and Carol Marsh left the building at 7 p.m.
With a room full of Stevens Students, council meeting regulars and city directors waiting, Council Vice President Peter Cunningham and Councilwoman Carol Marsh left City Hall around 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, the exact moment the bi-monthly meeting was supposed to start, cancelling the meeting for lack of quorum.
Cunningham ran out in the direction of the ground floor bathroom, while Marsh took the elevator from the second floor of the building, her folder of paperwork still on the table in the council chambers where she had placed it minutes before.
The reason for their sudden departure?
They did not want to vote on a last-minute resolution—proposed by their political opponents Tim Occhipinti and Theresa Castellano—that called for a referendum for the people of Hoboken to decide whether or not to move school board elections, which are usually held in April, to the general election in November.
Councilmembers Jennifer Giattino, David Mello and Ravi Bhalla were absent, which would have left the power of the meeting in the hands of the council minority. The resolution would have probably passed in a 4-2 vote. With a four-vote majority, the council minority would have been in charge of the agenda of the evening.
After meeting with the mayor in her office right before the meeting, Cunningham and Marsh left the building. With only four council members present—not enough people to pass anything on the agenda—Corporation Counsel Mark Tabakin officially called the meeting off.
"This is not the city council working together," said mayoral critic Michael Russo, calling it "partisan politics at its best" and "despicable."
"We don't have the majority every single meeting," said Castellano, who said she was equally disappointed with the situation. "None of us get up and run out."
Also present in the crowd was Stevens Institute Prof. Jonathan Wharton with a class of political science students.
"What do I tell my class?" Wharton said, "they have a paper due!"
Other topics of the agenda included a $7.7 million contract to renovate Frank Sinatra Park and the Castle Point Terrace walkway. The four minority members said they would have likely voted "yes" on that deal.
The minority, made up of mayoral opponents, also said they were planning to ask questions about three city representatives going to Indianapolis this Superbowl weekend for a seminar. Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino, Director of Health and Human Services Leo Pellegrini and Parking Utility employee Ryan Sharp flew there on Wednesday. According to a receipt of the city of Hoboken, Sharp's airfare was $339.20 to fly from New York to Indianapolis.
Councilman Mello was absent from the meeting because he was under the weather, said Council President Bhalla, who was held up at work and couldn't make the meeting. But in a phone interview on Wednesday night Bhalla said he agreed with his colleague's decision to walk out.
"It was the responsible thing to do," he said about avoiding the vote on the last minute resolution.
A special meeting will be scheduled within seven days. Castellano said this will cost the city hundreds of dollars in overtime that could have been avoided.
"How selfish," she said. "Just because they can't get their way."