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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Menendez Sets Off Ethical Alarm Bells

The North Hudson Community Action Corporation is a non-profit agency Bob Menendez steered millions in federal funds to over his years in Congress. The agency receives two-thirds of its $26 million annual budget from the federal government.

Back in June of 2005, Mike Hill pointed out the political shenanigans going on with the North Hudson Community Action Corporation as described in an article from the Hudson Reporter. The top jobs at the agency are high paying political plums - $185,000 plus.

The relationship between North Hudson Community Action Corporation and Menendez was a very cozy and lucrative one. Menendez collected over $300,000 in rent from the agency and more than $30,000 in political contributions from the non-profit’s employees. The agency even named the lobby in the agency's West New York headquarters the "Congressman Robert Menendez Pavilion" and honored Menendez as its "man of the year" In 2001.

The late CEO of the agency Michael Leggiero contributed $11,450 to Menendez campaigns and made only one other contribution to another candidate going as far back as the 1980 election cycle. Coincidentally, the agency’s other two top managers contributed to Menendez campaigns and only to his campaigns. Ann Dudsak and husband have shelled out $6,000 to Menendez since 2000 and Michael Shababb and wife contributed $3,000 to the Menendez’ senate campaign in 2006.

Now two state officials have filled a federal ethics complaint against Menendez for violating conflict-of-interest rules for collecting more than $300,000 from the agency for which he helped secure millions in federal dollars.

Craig Holman, an ethics analyst at Public Citizen, a left-leaning public-watchdog organization in Washington, said the lease deal breached House ethics rules.

"That is a violation of the ethics code of Congress," Holman said. "He [was] in a business relationship with this entity so he should not be taking any actions on their behalf. It does have the appearance of corruption.
Menendez brushes off his relationship with the agency as business as usual:

Menendez said there was nothing inappropriate about his financial ties to the organization. He said he received clearance for the arrangement from the House ethics committee, though he did not obtain a written opinion.

Menendez's financial disclosure forms filed with the House Ethics Committee showed the rental income as required, though not the source.
Passing “the Torch”:

The last time the committee took action against a senator following an investigation was in 2002, when New Jersey Democrat Robert Torricelli was accused of violating ethics rules by accepting gifts without disclosing them. The panel ultimately admonished Torricelli, and he dropped his re-election bid.
Does Menendez have an ethical alarm bell? If so, when does it go off?

Update: Michael Shababb's contributions to Menendez were $3,000, not $2,000. We regret the typo, since corrected.

Additional Posts:
Menendez: You Put Your Hand On The Bible
Another Menendez, North Hudson Community Action Center “Coincidence”
Bob Menendez Digs A Deeper Hole
Bob “I Barely Broke Even” Menendez Busted
Bob “I Barely Broke Even” Menendez
Bob Menendez: The Early Years



8 Comments:

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Mike Rafone said...

Having worked for and with several, I can tell you that social service agencies like North Hudson Community Action Corp. are all too often political patronage mills. Yes, most if not all provide important services in the community, but they also serve the political bosses who help them get funding. I'm betting that some industrious reporter decides to do some digging here and begins to uncover just how deep this problem runs. Not only are these "non-profits" paying huge salaries to politically connected senior management, but they're feeding the campaign fundraising machines and serving as adjunct arms of the campaigns themselves. Menendez is going to set off a wave of inquiry that will rock these outfits from Camden (read Wayne Bryant's family) to Newark (you name the politician and they're into it) to Hudson County. How happy are all those hacks who have their nice gig ruined by Menendez going to be with him!

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger Dino P. Crocetti said...

Sen Kean has a four point lead in the latest FDU Poll with a +/-4% margin of error making the race a Statistical dead heat.

What I would like to know is how much bigger Sen. Kean's is among likely voters. I'm willing to bet that it's around 7 points.

Bob Menendez has been getting hit over the head with his voting record and his questionable deals and alliances for months and now that September is right around the bend, more and more people will be seeing Boss Bob for the Hudson County thug he really is.






P.S. To my friend Trochilus, I'm having trouble e-mailing you. Whenever I respond they get sent back. Just wanted to let you know just in case you were wondering where I've been

 
At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Trochilus said...

Just a note -- with respect to Michael Shababb and his wife, their contributions have actually totalled $3,000.00 for the Menendez for Senate campaign for this current race.

Regarding the so-called verbal opinion Menendez now claims he received from the Ethics Committee, who does Bob say gave him the opinion?

You have to wonder why a reporter would get an utterly unlikely answer like that to a question, and not immediately follow it up with several specific questions, ones along the following lines:

"Exactly who told you this -- what is the name of the person gave you the informal verbal opinion?"

"Is that person currently alive?"

"Did you personally ask the question?"

"Did you personally receive the answer?"

"What was (or still is) that person's official position or title with the Ethics Committee?"

"Exactly when did this person give you this opinion, you know, date, time and location?"

"Exactly what specific facts did you disclose to this person, before they offered you this verbal opinion?"

"Was all or any portion of your inquiry to this person submitted to them in writing, or by e-mail, or was it made in the course of a conversation, or phone call?"

"Did the person who gave you this opinion tell you that he or she was offering this as an opinion, and that you were entitled to rely on it?"

"Did the person at any time say that there was no need for you to obtain a written opinion?"

Just curious!

 
At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Trochilus said...

Scanned the various stories today regarding Menendez's claim that he asked for and received a verbal opinion from the Ethics Committee saying his arrangement with NHCAC was a-okay. He apparently repeated the claim at his Press availability yesterday, because he defended that loose arrangement, but I couldn't find any reports about answers to follow-ups.

Did I miss something, or is the press continuing to let him slide on this one?

A few suggested questons are posted above.

The old saying is that an oral contract is worth the paper it's written on. There must be an analogy to Bill Clinton somewhere . . . like, an oral opinion doesn't really amount to an ethics opinion.

I wonder if he had an oral lease with NHCAC? Bet he had that in writing! I wonder if any of the press will ask him for a copy of the lease(s), you know, so we can see where he actually signed it?

He seems to be implying now that this was all handled at arms length. Let's see!

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger CADMUS said...

As a former Operational Auditor of CSBG programs I can testify to the general political infiltration of these organizations. The states inherited these programs from the fed's in the 80's. With rare exceptions only the same poverty pimps that got money under the old CETA grants were allowed to get money undwer the new system. so waste and curruption were built into these from the beginning.

I seem to remember that the late Allan Karcher rented a clapped out building in Newark to UCC corporation. UCC was the second worst CAP in the state and wasted almost every penny of the 1.2 million buck they got every year. So playing landlord to poverty pimps isn't anything new for elected officials in NJ.

The question that should be asked is, who is the state mandated auditor for the North Hudson CAP and who is getting service and other contracts from North Hudson. THAT could prove interesting. Also it seems to me that almost everyone on the board of directors of NHCAP is connected in one way or another with Hudson County Government. So they all are under the machines thumb.

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Rev Richard E. Patterson said...

Curiously enough, your article says that this agency is now "under federal investigation." I find myself suspicious about the reasoning and timing of these allegations. Are we really expected to believe that a lease agreement for 9 years, from 1994 - 2003, is only being challenged now out of ethical, rather than political, motives? If there was really a problem who allowed this federally funded program to operate this way for so long a time? How did such a problem manage to slip by 9 years of federal fiscal program audits? Why is it being brought up now - after the passing of the agency's director, Michael Leggiero who has received countess awards from federal, state & local levels for his dedication of service to the community?

We probably have all heard of how "the dead have risen up" to vote in past elections in Hudson County. Unfortunately Michael Leggiero cannot do the same to defend his reputation. It is up to the living to determine where the stench is coming from- inside or outside of Hudson County. I, for one happen to believe it is the latter. Kean's allegations simply don't pass the smell test!

Richard E. Patterson

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOOOW...I WORK FOR NHCAC FOR SEVERAL YEARS AND YOU HAD TO BE BLIND FOR NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS GOING ON OVERTHERE.. DUSAK ,SHABAB, DR, DE VERA AFTER LEGGERIO PAST AWAY THEY WERE SO OVIOUS IN THEIR GRRED AND TWISTED SCEMES THAT A REGULAR VERY INTELIGENT MEDICAL ASSISTANT COULD FIGURE OUT EVERYTHING THEIR THEIR OWN AGENDAS WERE ALL ABOUT. THEY DID NOT GIVE A DAMM OF THE EMPLOYEES ..IT WAS A SHAME... I HAVE MY EXP[ERIENCE IN THAT PLACE, T I GAVE 110% OF MY LOVED PROFESION FOR MANY YEARS AND AT THE END I WAS TREATED LIKE CRAPAAA1A1 IF YOU PLAN TO HAVE A FAMILIY WHILE IN NHCAC THEY RATHER GET RID OF YOU AT ANY COST, FOR INSURANCE REASONS!!! THEY FORCED ME TO LEAVE. DUSAK AND SHABAB!! HEDIOUS PEOPLE! I'M DOING GREAT, AND HAPPY I DIDN'T STAY THERE!! MMSS♥ PS /DUSAK AND SHABAB I WILLNEVER FORGET HOW POORLY YOU TREATED ME BECAUSE I WAS HAVING A BABY!! MMSS

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous elenama said...

The relationship between North Hudson Community Action Corporation and Menendez was a very cozy and lucrative one. Menendez collected over $300,000 in rent from the agency and more than $30,000 in political contributions cialis
from the non-profit’s employees. The agency even named the lobby in the agency's West New York headquarters the "Congressman Robert Menendez Pavilion" and honored Menendez as its "man of the year" In 2001.

 

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