Legal fight over Councilman DeFusco’s campaign finances continues

Hoboken councilman refused prosecutor’s offer to pay for alleged violations

DeFusco is seeking to have the complaint on his campaign finances dismissed.

A legal complaint regarding Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco’s campaign finances is continuing without a conclusion, after another court hearing was held to determine whether he violated the city’s campaign finance ordinances.

The councilman is seeking to dismiss a legal complaint from City Clerk James Farina, alleging that he violated the city’s finance laws by receiving contributions in excess of the $500 limit from political action committees. DeFusco charges that the allegations against him are politically motivated.

During the court hearing in West New York’s municipal court, Steven Kleinmann, DeFusco’s lawyer, called the prosecution “illegal, corrupt and politically motivated,” and “a gross violation of his civil rights.”

“My client wants his day in court, and wants his motion to dismiss heard as soon as possible, because my client did nothing wrong,” he said. “What my client did is absolutely legal under New Jersey law. What Hoboken is doing is illegal.”

Kleinmann then clarified that he’s seeking the dismissal because of what he argued was a lack of probable cause.

Connie Bentley McGhee, the prosecutor for New Jersey, said that the state is presuming the Hoboken ordinance is valid. She offered the DeFusco defense the chance to select one of the violations, admit responsibility, and pay a penalty four times the amount received.

“We are open” she said, “to deciding on what the contribution that defense would be accepting responsibility for receiving, and then there could be a proposal for a fine,” she said.

DeFusco shot down the prosecutor’s offer, arguing that it was against his constitutional rights and that he was following state and federal campaign laws. He also alleged that Farina could have filed a complaint back in 2017 when he ran for mayor, and that the case has damaged his political and private careers.

“I don’t think the prosecutor’s offer understands, quite frankly, the levels to which this administration and this city clerk have violated my constitutional rights to fundraise,” he said. “I will take this as far as I need to.”

Farina, who had not commented on the case since filing the complaint, said in reponse that the case isn’t about him, but the city’s ordinances, which puts the clerk in charge of enforcing the ordinance.

“Don’t blame me personally for the ordinance, alright?” he said.

As the case gets relisted, a ruling on it will determine whether Hoboken’s campaign finance laws themselves will change. An ordinance recently adopted would grant unions an exemption from the $500 limit, but will only go into effect if the court rules in the DeFusco case that the laws are unenforceable or unconstitutional.

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