Former Hoboken public housing director likely to get $700K settlement

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HOBOKEN — The Hoboken Housing Authority approved, at their Nov. 9 meeting, a potential $700,000 payment to settle litigation with Carmelo Garcia, its former executive director, according to the meeting transcripts: https://tinyurl.com/y7yolffk.
The measure passed 4-0-2 with Commissioner Barbara Reyes and Commissioner LaTrenda Ross abstaining.
However, the settlement must still be approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The HHA, funded by federal tax dollars, oversees the city’s low-income housing projects. It’s run by a paid executive director and staff, but overseen by an unpaid seven-member board of local appointees. Often, the majority of appointees are allied with the reigning mayoral administration.
In 2014, the majority of the seven-member HHA Board of Commissioners terminated Garcia, citing various alleged management and financial issues. He filed a lawsuit in 2016 saying the firing was discriminatory and part of a pattern in which the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer was keeping minorities off boards.
The HHA countersued Garcia that year, alleging that he violated HUD guidelines in the approval of several contracts.
Garcia’s attorney, Louis Zayas, said on Friday, “Mr. Garcia and his family are happy and humbled to put this behind them as an amicable and favorable resolution has been reached.”
When asked for a comment on the matter on Friday, current HHA Executive Director Marc Recko said he was “unaware of any such resolution” for a settlement.
Former chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners Dana Wefer, who left the board this year because she moved to Bergen County, said Friday that she was not notified of any settlement agreement. Wefer was the chair at the time that Garcia was terminated.
At the December HHA meeting, board member and Councilman David Mello declined to comment when asked if there was an update.
While Garcia served as director, he was also elected to the state Assembly and served in that part-time job concurrently.
To read more details about this issue, see this weekend’s print edition of the Hoboken Reporter, or come back to hudsonreporter.com starting Sunday. Watch for a longer story in January.