Hoboken’s City Council dealt mayor Ravi Bhalla a blow on Wednesday when it voted by a 7-2 margin in favor of a resolution to end the city’s contract with a legal firm representing Bhalla in his appeal against a 2017 ruling by the State Local Finance Board that accused him of an ethics violation.
The Board ruled that Bhalla, then a councilman, had acted unethically when he voted on a resolution appointing jersey City attorney Paul Condon as special legal counsel for Hoboken. The board said the two had a close business relationship, which Bhalla has denied.
The violation has become a favorite sticking point for two of Bhalla’s political rivals, Councilman Mike DeFusco, whom Bhalla defeated in last year’s mayoral race, and Council President Ruben Ramos, who backed DeFusco in 2017.
“Last night the City Council voted overwhelmingly to protect Hoboken taxpayers by stopping Mayor Bhalla from continuing to use city resources to defend himself against a personal ethical violation,” the two council members said in a joint statement. “This has gone on for eight years and it’s clear that the Mayor’s lack of candor when the situation first developed led the city down a path of being unfairly forced to foot the bill for Bhalla’s indiscretion.”
In 2010, when the initial resolution was passed, Bhalla and Condon shared a lease on a law office. The two had separate practices, but Bhalla did not abstain from the vote on the resolution.
The Local Finance Board levied a $100 fine on Bhalla but waived the same because of a lack of precedent for violations involving joint lease agreements.