A court battle over a legal complaint about Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco’s campaign finances is set to be continued in August, and the outcome of the case could determine whether or not there was cause to issue the complaint and whether Hoboken’s campaign finance laws will change.
DeFusco has sought to dismiss the complaint filed by Hoboken City Clerk James Farina alleging that he broke the city’s finance laws. The councilman has charged the complaint is a political attack against him.
At the most recent court hearing on June 21, West New York Judge Armando Hernandez said that he will make a decision on whether or not there was cause to issue the complaint. The next court hearing is scheduled for August 25.
In 2019, Hoboken City Clerk James Farina filed a complaint in October alleging that DeFusco went over the city’s finance rules during his 2017 mayoral campaign, which rules stipulate that candidates can only receive up to $500 from political committees.
Since the complaint was filed, it has been in the courts for more than two years, having initially moved from Hoboken’s municipal court to Union City, before being eventually moved to its current venue in West New York due to an unexplained conflict of interest.
In a number of virtual court hearings, DeFusco and his lawyer, Steven Kleinmann of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs, LLC, have asked the court to dismiss the complaint, echoing previous comments that it was politically motivated. Kleinmann has argued that there is a lack of probable cause and that the statute of limitations expired after one year.
Connie Bentley McGhee, the prosecutor for New Jersey, has argued that there is probable cause, that Farina acted on his obligation to enforce violations of the ordinance and that there isn’t a one year statute of limitations.
The outcome of the case might change the city’s own campaign finance laws. In December of last year (and again in February of this year), the City Council adopted an ordinance that would grant labor unions an exemption from the city’s finance laws.
However, a trigger clause was added, stating that it will only go into effect if the court rules in the DeFusco complaint that the laws are unenforceable or unconstitutional. Council members Emily Jabbour and Phil Cohen, who sponsored the initial ordinance back in 2021, said at the time that the current rules “are not working and are not enforceable.”