Two Hoboken councilwomen on Wednesday claimed Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s administration had them booted from city hall Tuesday.
Councilwomen Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino said a city hall security guard approached them and asked them to leave as they were trying to help a Hoboken resident with a property issue.
“It is alarming that the administration ordered our removal from City Hall while we were helping a Hoboken resident at risk of losing his home,” the two said in a joint statement. “As duly elected representatives and active members of the city’s government, we will continue to be a presence in City Hall and we will not tolerate nor be intimidated by this attempt to prevent us from doing the job we were elected to do – representing and advocating for the residents of Hoboken.”
Bhalla’s office told a slightly different story.
City spokesperson Vijay Chaudhuri said the councilwomen were asked to leave because they had no appointment scheduled and might have disrupted city officials.
“The Councilmembers dramatic claims, as per usual, are disingenuous,” Chaudhuri said. “The Business Administrator has received numerous complaints from City Directors that these two Councilmembers in particular repeatedly abuse their status and barge into their offices unannounced, disrupting staff always without appointment. They were asked if they had an appointment, and if not to politely vacate the building due to the Business Administrator’s policy requiring an appointment to see City Director and staff.”
Fisher said she believed Bhalla chief-of-staff, John Allen, made the call to have the women removed.
“All I can say is we were walking downstairs and we bumped into the mayor’s chief of staff and two minutes later, the call came to tell us that we had to leave or we would be escorted out,” Fisher said.
The encounter continued past the initial swings.
Fisher ran into Hoboken business administrator Stephen Marks during lunch with a friend at the Hoboken Madison,
“Unfortunately, councilmember Fisher hours later verbally berated and cursed at the business administrator in public during his lunch break,” Chaudhuri said. “She owes the BA an apology for her utter lack of professionalism and meltdown.”
Fisher denied shouting and cursing at Marks during their encounter on at the restaurant, claiming the two cordially met by accident.
When asked about the discrepancy, Fisher went on the attack.
“It is not surprising at all that the mayor’s office via the communications director Vijay Chaudhuri chooses to be dishonest to the public and continue their bullying tactics to cover their transgressions,” Fisher said. “When Director Marks happened to walk by me at lunch at Madison yesterday, where I was sitting outside with a friend, I said hello and then asked him about the removal order and he told me he was just following directions.”
“We then continued our perfectly constructive conversation, as usual, and discussed other city business including the planned upgrades for the intersection of 14th and Shipyard Lane. The only meltdown happening is Vijay’s.”