To the editor:
Last week was a controversial Hoboken Housing Authority Board meeting to say the least. Since August, the HHA, under a new Chairman, has been reticent to select new legal counsel for the Board. Then, this week, the Board learned that the Chairman has been conducting a selection process for a new Counsel in secret, private meetings with little consideration for process or transparency. In fact, there is a good chance that the Chairman's selection process violated the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) guidelines for an ethical procurement process. The result of the Chairman’s "backroom" process? The selection of a politically connected law firm that submitted the highest bid as the HHA's new legal counsel.
At the Board meeting on February 7th, the Chairman was unable to enunciate any tangible or meritorious reason for his selection. In fact, when pressed on the decision he was unable to identify any ranking or scoring system used to make the selection. All we learned about why the Chairman selected this particular law firm is that it was the firm that they were “most comfortable with.” Coincidently, the law firm selected has been ranked one of the top 10 pay-to-play firms in the state based on a review of state campaign finance reports by a reputable news source. Is this what the Chairman and the Mayor consider reform?
In contrast, the HHA’s management, the group HUD empowered to make such selections, chose the lowest bidder with little available record of pay to play. Hoboken deserves better than “politics as usual” and the same old one-sided, spoil system mentality that the current Administration has implemented to reward supporters and punish those who question its cronyism. Rather than meeting behind closed doors to select politically connected law firms, Hoboken deserves real and honest debate on proposals that will govern affordable housing in this City and affect the City At-Large.
To his immense credit, HHA Commissioner Greg Lincoln chose not to support the Chairman's well-connected, and expensive selection. Commissioner Lincoln demonstrated true political courage by placing the interests of Hoboken and its taxpayers above the personal, political agenda of the Chairman and the Administration.
The HHA was once a place where folks worked together on solutions that made sense for working families. Now, under new leadership, it’s the same partisan gridlock we see in City Hall. The common taxpayer isn’t going to let anyone select a high bidder on what someone just so happens “to be comfortable with” and neither are the HHA Board Commissioners. Real, responsible leaders leave their “comfort zone” and do what’s best and most ethical for constituents and it’s time that the Chairman follow Commissioner Lincoln's example and put the interests of Hoboken's above the personal and political agenda of the Administration.