Ex-Hoboken Councilman Schaeffer pleads guilty in Cammarano scheme HOBOKEN – The U.S. Attorney's office announced Monday that former Hoboken Councilman Michael Schaffer admitted in court that he gave $25,000 in illicit cash campaign contributions to former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano in a scheme to obtain Cammarano’s official influence regarding an outside developer's real estate projects.
Schaffer, 59, appeared before United States District Judge Jose L. Linares Monday and pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal Information charging him with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Judge Linares continued Schaffer’s release on a $100,000 bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2010.
At his plea hearing, Schaffer admitted that, while Cammarano was an at-large councilman and candidate for the position of mayor, Schaffer accepted three unlawful cash campaign contributions totaling $15,000 from a cooperating witness (“CW”), who purported to be a real estate developer, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Schaffer was working with Cammarano on Cammarano's ultimately successful mayoral campaign. However, Cammarano ended up arrested three weeks after taking office, and resigned the following week after public pressure. Cammarano pleaded guilty this past April 20 and will be sentenced on Aug. 3.
The arrests of Schaffer and Cammarano last summer were part of an FBI sting operation into potentially corrupt politicians and political candidates.
According to the release, Schaffer further admitted that on July 16, 2009, after Cammarano had been elected and sworn in as mayor, he accepted an additional $10,000 illicit cash campaign contribution from the witness.
The witness has been identified as real estate developer Solomon Dwek, who himself was in trouble with the FBI and helped supply the bait to ensnare many of the political figures who were caught last year.
Schaffer admitted that the $25,000 in cash payments were in exchange for Cammarano’s future official assistance, action, and influence in Hoboken government matters pertaining to Dwek's anticipated real estate development projects. Schaffer also admitted that he wrote checks to Cammarano’s campaign fund in order to conceal the origin of the cash he received from Dwek.
Fishman stated: “Today Michael Schaffer admitted that he facilitated $25,000 in illegal payments to the mayor of Hoboken. Much is said about corrupt officials, but we cannot ignore those who conspire to enable that corruption. We and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold those who betray the public accountable, and we won’t leave out the middle man.”
The charge to which Schaffer pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Fishman said that Edward Cheatam, another conspirator in the scheme, pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2009, and also awaits sentencing.
Schaffer also has served on the local sewerage authority.
Ex-Deputy JC Mayor Beldini gets 3-year sentence
JERSEY CITY – Former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, 75, received a three-year federal prison sentence Monday for accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. She had accepted them last spring from an FBI informant posing as a real estate developer, part of a large sting of political corruption.
More than 45 people have been arrested in the sting, 19 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted. Beldini was one of the few who tried to fight the case, but was convicted by a jury.
She has been ordered to pay a fine and report to jail by Aug. 2, according to the Associated Press.
Hoboken holds vote on bond to buy back garage HOBOKEN — The Hoboken City Council could not get a critical sixth vote Sunday night on a $16 million bond ordinance to buy back the city’s public works garage at their special council meeting. They postponed the vote until Wednesday, June 16 in the hopes that the council members voting against it may change their minds, but the results were not available at press time (see www.hudsonreporter.com for the updated information.)
The city already has a contract to sell the garage to a developer, S. Hekemian Group, for $25.5 million. But that sale is contingent upon state environmental approval. If approval fails, the city may buy back the garage. They must vote ahead of time to bond for the money in case they need to do so.
If the garage sells, the city hopes to build a new one in a less pricey part of town, or share services with another city or entity.
The city and the council majority – allied with Mayor Dawn Zimmer – had scheduled the vote for a special meeting for Sunday night because they expected 6th Ward Councilman Nino Giacchi, who was to leave on vacation after that, to fairly assess the situation and vote in favor of the bond. At least they believed he would assess it more fairly than council members Beth Mason, Michael Russo, and Theresa Castellano, who are often critics of Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s council majority. All three had said they were not available for the Sunday meeting.
Nonetheless, Mason and Russo still made special arrangements in order to make the meeting.
After hours discussing the importance of the measure and hearing some enlightening testimony from financial professionals handling the garage, Giacchi decided there was more time for the city to pursue buying back the garage. He said he would vote later in the summer, but not now. He said buying back the garage is a last option and not a priority.
Selling the garage is the priority, said Giacchi, and the administration seems to be publicly confident that they will be able to do so on Aug. 13. If they don’t, they could be sued by the developer for damages in breach of contract.
The property is presently owned by the leasing division of the private firm NW Financial, but the financing program that allows the city the opportunity to buy back the pawned-off garage is run by Capital One. A representative of Capital One told the council last night that his company wants the city to pass the bond ordinance in a show of “good faith” in order for the bank to extend the city’s financing program from its expiration on July 1 for three months.
Oddly, the rep also said he did not know the city had pushed back their closing date with Hekemian from July 1 to Aug. 13, which was brought to light by a hard line of questioning by Giacchi, a lawyer in his day job.
Hoboken police to hold bike safety program this Sat HOBOKEN – To promote children’s bicycle safety, Jersey City Medical Center and the Hoboken Police Department will hold a kids’ bike rodeo, bicycle registration, and helmet fitting in Hoboken, Saturday June 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the city’s 310 Jackson St. parking lot.
The event will mark the start of Think Positive: A Helmet Safety Reward Program, in which “positive tickets” will be handed out to children in Hoboken wearing bike helmets. Children under the age of 17 seen by police wearing a helmet when participating in a wheeled sport activity will receive a “positive ticket” which can be redeemed for ices or sundaes at Rita’s Ices, Mister Softee, Ralph’s Italian Ices, and Johnny Rockets. In addition, each ticket includes additional information for the child and parents to read on brain injury and helmet safety.
The effort is conducted by Jersey City Medical Center’s Division of Trauma in collaboration with the Hoboken Police Department and the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey
New Jersey’s helmet law requires that children under the age of 17 wear a helmet while bicycling, skateboarding, and roller-skating.
“It’s a chance for everyone to get behind a program that through teaching and education will help to ‘enhance life,’ “ said Joseph F. Scott, President and Chief Executive Officer of LibertyHealth, which operates and manages Jersey City Medical Center.
Marissa Fisher, RN, the Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Division of Trauma at Jersey City Medical Center, said, “A properly worn helmet is the single most effective safety device available to reduce brain injury and death, by as much as 88 percent.”
For more information please contact Fisher at 201-915-2906.
High Tech High mentioned in Newsweek’s ‘best high school’ issue HUDSON COUNTY -- Besides the individual public high schools in Hudson County, there are a few competitive public county-run magnet schools. Many students want to get into High Tech High -- and Newsweek has noted the school's reputation in its “America’s best high schools” issue this week.
The magazine writes: “High Tech High School, North Bergen, N.J., and High Technology High School, Lincroft, N.J: Both opened the same year, 1991, use the increasingly popular High Tech High name and are magnets emphasizing hands-on learning. But the Lincroft school is run by Monmouth County and Brookdale Community College while the North Bergen school is one of the Hudson County schools of technology.”
These comments are made on a list of schools that are separated from the regular high school list because these particular schools draw top students as magnet schools. The magazine explains, “These top-performing schools, listed below in alphabetical order, were excluded from the list of top high schools because, despite their exceptional quality, their sky-high SAT and ACT scores indicate they have few or no average students.”
New tech program helps seniors at home HUDSON COUNTY – United Cerebral Palsy of Hudson County was recently invited by the Hudson County Schools of Technology Tech Savvy for Seniors program to introduce the senior citizens of the class to Home Suite Home, an innovated program created by UCP of Hudson County.
The Home Suite Home Program provides senior citizens living in their own homes the opportunity to have discussions with medical, social services, and therapeutic professionals without having to leave their home.
The program establishes, through a high speed internet connection, live interaction with professionals throughout the county who are committed to enhancing the lives of Hudson County seniors.
In addition to using technology to assist seniors in maintaining their place in their own home, the program also provides home visits to ensure that participants are making the best use of the service and living a life that is enriching and that allow them to maintain their dignity.
If you or a loved one is interested in UCP of Hudson County’s Home Suite Home Program, please contact Reggie Neal, Director of Social and Clinical Services at 201-436-2200. UCP of Hudson County will provide assistance with eligibility documents if required.
Eco-education open to all Hudson County residents HUDSON COUNTY – On June 16, the Bergen County Audubon Society (BCAS) will host the informational session “The Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge: An Oasis for Wildlife in the Kittatinny Valley,” presented by Ken Witkowski.
All BCAS programs are free of charge and open to all members of the public. The informational program will be presented at Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, 443 Van Nostrand Ave. in Englewood at 8 p.m. For more information, contact Don Torino (201) 636-4022 or Greatauk4@aol.com.