Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hackensack, city attorney in showdown over $3M Zisa deal

Alexander H. Carver III, a former Superior Court judge, was appointed Hackensack city attorney on Sept. 30, 2015 (Credit: Harwood Lloyd law firm).


This week, Hackensack's City Council is prepared to vote on a resolution terminating the services of City Attorney Alexander H. Carver III, a former judge who has had the job for only 13 months.

In a letter to the editor of The Record today, Mayor John Labrosse and Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino complained Carver agreed to pay nearly $3 million to former Police Chief Ken Zisa "without informing the mayor and council" (O-3).

"We knew the matter was being discussed -- but not decided," they say in the letter.

"Why did the city settle the case without insisting Zisa drop his $30 million tort claim against taxpayers?

"Why did the city settle before the deadline the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office had set for deciding whether to file administrative charges against Zisa, even though we specifically asked Carver to wait for that decision?

"Why did Carver agree to pay Zisa more than $1.2 million in legal fees without first reviewing the detailed invoices himself or have another attorney review them?

"Why did the city cut a $600,000-plus check to Zisa without a vote of the council or an appropriation?

"We have lost faith in Carver. If he won't resign before [this] Tuesday's [regular council] meeting, we will have to terminate his services."

Carver is not a city employee and doesn't have a signed contract. He is being paid $175,000 a year -- equal to Governor Christie's salary.

Zisa is a member of a family political dynasty that ruled Hackensack for decades. The city once was referred to mockingly as "Zisaville."

Mayor John Labrosse, seated, and other members of the City Council, including Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino, second from left.

Manager OK'd deal

As reported on Oct. 5 by Eye on The Record, Carver and David R. Troast, on his last day as city manager, agreed to a deal that would pay Zisa nearly $1,755,000 in back pay, vacation and sick days, and other job-related compensation.

Zisa, who was suspended in 2010 after 34 years in the Police Department, had been tried and convicted in 2012.

A Superior Court jury found him guilty of official misconduct and insurance fraud, and he was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

But he was placed under house arrest during appeals, and those charges were eventually dismissed.

Carver and Troast, who said he reviewed the "legal bills and invoices" submitted by Zisa's lawyer, also agreed to pay the former chief nearly $1,203,000 to cover fees through Sept. 30.

At a special meeting on Oct. 25, the City Council passed a resolution indicating officials hope to hire a new city attorney by Dec. 1.

Bridgegate trial

If you aren't already sick of The Record's wall-to-wall coverage of the Bridgegate trial, the Sunday edition should do the trick (A-1 and O-1).

The lead Page 1 story is by Paul Berger, the Port Authority reporter who need a navigation system to find the federal courthouse in Newark.

After six week of testimony from 34 witnesses, Berger declares, "several large questions remain unanswered."

Readers have their own questions, including why Berger and Dustin Racioppi, another court novice, was assigned to perhaps the most important federal criminal trial in decades.

On the Opinion front, the editors came up with a provocative headline for Carl Golden's take on the trial:


Golden is former press aide to Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, who were the worst New Jersey governors before GOP thug Chris Christie came along to claim the crown.

Below Golden's wordy column, Record Columnist Mike Kelly declares:

"Thanks to the Bridgegate trial, we now know that Christie's version of history is, at best, threadbare and highly questionable. At worst, it's a damnable lie" (O-1). 

Other stories

Page 1 has two other stories that could distract readers sick of all the repetitious Bridgegate trial stories and columns.

Retailing reporter Joan Verdon recalls Donald J. Trump's grandiose plans in 1989 for "the finest shopping center in New Jersey and beyond" at Routes 4 and 17 in Paramus (A-1).

Trump gave North Jersey residents "a preview of some of the talking points of his presidential campaign, including blustery claims about his building prowess and his ability to fix long-standing government problems, lawsuits and insults against the competition, and an allegation that the approval process might be stacked against him."

Trump hired Thomas Wells, a Paramus attorney. In July, Wells wrote a piece for The Huffington Post. Here are excerpts the reporter doesn't mention:

"After the initial interview, my client contact with Donald was actually not very much. One low point I do remember (actually will never forget) is a limousine ride to a meeting with the editorial board of a New Jersey newspaper in which my married client sought to regale me with the number and quality of eligible young women who in his words “want me.” I was just plain shocked and embarrassed, but I kept smiling. I wanted and needed this client happy. 
"While I was working for Donald, various press reports had Trump and his then-wife Ivanna living in a personal apartment in the Trump Tower of 8, 16 and even 20 or 30 rooms. Genuinely curious, I once asked him how many rooms the apartment actually had. I will never forget his response to me: “However many they will print.”

No trick-or-treat

Below the tortured Trump tale, local obituary writer Jay Levin reports no trick-or-treaters ever come to the door of the Kostka home, because "the house is inside a cemetery" (A-1).

Guy Kostka, superintendent of Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood, has lived on the grounds with his family since 1982.

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