By a vote of 5 to 4, the Jersey City Council last week rejected two judicial appointments recommended by Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, who is up for re-election in May.
Healy had recommended Carlo Abad to be the chief judge for the Jersey City Municipal Court and Velazquez to be a full-time judge for the Municipal Court. Both men had also received the support of the Hudson County Assignment Judge, who agreed with Healy’s recommendations.
But City Council members Steven Fulop, David Donnelly, Diane Coleman, Nidia Lopez, and Rolando Lavarro Jr. all voted against Abad and Velazquez, arguing that they wanted more input in the judicial selection process and felt it was inappropriate for Healy to make these important appointments just three months before a municipal election.
Healy is being challenged in May by Fulop. City Council members Coleman, Lopez, and Lavarro are allied with Fulop and are also running for re-election on his slate.
(The assigning judge for Hudson County Superior Court has since appointed Abad to be the Jersey City municipal judge in an acting capacity. The next mayoral administration will make a recommendation on a permanent candidate for the post after the upcoming municipal elections in May. Abad becomes the first Filipino American to serve as Jersey City’s chief municipal judge.)
But Velazquez took to Facebook over the weekend and told of an interesting series of events.
In one post he wrote: “Truth be told Steve Fulop reached out to me within hours of my resigning as deputy mayor to seek out my support for his campaign. He and his campaign manager took me to lunch at the Brownstone where we discussed the campaign for mayor. I was courted for my endorsement and was actually considering it. He told me our historical issues were behind us and that my perspective was valued. When the vacancy on the Municipal Court came up, I called him for his support. He told me to wait until he was mayor. I told him that I would not do that. So he and his running mates have chosen to use their political office to malign and defame me. I think asking me to wait until he was mayor was tantamount to quid pro quo and illegal. Councilman Lavarro went so far to say during the council meeting that my appointment was a payoff by Healy to me. This defamatory statement will be the subject of my lawsuit to be filed in the coming days. Shame on all of them for attempting to destroy me and my reputation for not going along with their program. See you all in court.”
After Fulop responded, calling Velazquez a “liar,” Velazquez uploaded screen shots of Facebook messages the two exchanged back on December 19. The screen shots read as follows:
Velazquez: “Are we meeting tomorrow?”
Velazquez: “Just wondering, is this just us, or should I expect Junior and Anthony? Don’t get me wrong, I like Junior and Anthony, but it might be a little difficult for me to speak freely.”
Fulop: “Junior set it up and John Thieroff is point person on the campaign…i [sic] think Junior is the guy that facilitated it and Thieroff on my end important. I think we can move past historical issues there is ok with you.”
After the uploaded exchange a few negative comments regarding Fulop, the councilman responded with a post of his own.
“Ray. I think you are losing it,” Fulop wrote. “Our judges should be professional at all times and I think this highlights the point. Why don’t you post the entire thread of emails and exchanges that you wrote on fb pre and post lunch. I am happy to share.”
“Steve I’ll see you in court,” Velazquez responded. “I’ll see you in court.”
Chet Richey, a Velazquez Facebook friend, finally interjected the famous quote from Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along???”
The answer is no, apparently.
The Healy campaign is already prepared to make the flap over the judicial appointments a political issue in the campaign.
Over the weekend the mayor’s campaign made a series of robocalls to Filipino households in the city stating that Fulop and his allies blocked his appointment. – E. Assata Wright