Mayor Rivera issues Veiled threat to expose Gary Schaer’s own Illegal Behavior

16 09 2007

For those who can read between the lines, this is from an article in the Herald News. Complete article available by clicking “Read the rest of this entry” below.

Rivera said that Schaer had no legal right to call for a special counsel.

“So he wants to play games. Let him play games,” Rivera said. “He is a person that shouldn’t be striving for a more intense investigation.”

For complete article, including other people blasting Gary Schaer, click here:

By MEREDITH MANDELL – HERALD NEWS

PASSAIC, NJ – The City Council president believes the city should hire an independent lawyer now that federal agents are looking into dealings the mayor and two council members allegedly had with contractors, but some are questioning his motives.

City Council President Gary Schaer on Wednesday said the lawyer would not be an “investigator” but simply a person who will advise council members as the federal investigation unfolds.

Mayor Samuel Rivera, Councilman Marcellus Jackson and former councilman Jonathan Soto were arrested on charges of bribery and extortion last week. Soto was a councilman from 2003 to July. The three allegedly took thousands of dollars in bribes from FBI undercover agents posing as insurance brokers.

The bribes were in exchange for getting the city to enter into a contract with the insurance brokers. Rivera is alleged to have said to undercover agents “I can get four (council) votes easy, easy, easy.”

The council approved a resolution proposed by Soto in December that allowed the insurance brokers to offer medical spending accounts to city employees, without going through the “fair and open” bidding process, required by city ordinance for agreements costing more than $17,500. On Monday, city Business Administrator Greg Hill said no city employee signed up for the spending accounts. The resolution remains on the books.

On Tuesday night, at a standing-room-only council meeting attended by more than 200 people, Schaer said the city’s corporation counsel will review all contracts that have been entered into with the city over the past two years.

In addition, Schaer proposed that an independent lawyer would be hired, but he did not elaborate on what the lawyer would do. On Wednesday Schaer clarified the role of the lawyer, saying in a telephone interview that the lawyer would be to advise the council on matters related to the investigation.

“The city will be asked for financial records and contracts,” Schaer said. “We need someone independent of the current process who will share with us what’s going on, who can guide us.”

Contacted on Wednesday, Rivera, who did not attend Tuesday’s council meeting, said that he questioned Schaer’s motives for calling for an independent counsel, believing them to be politically motivated. He noted that Schaer, who is also a state assemblyman, is up for re-election to his legislative seat in November. Rivera said that Schaer had no legal right to call for a special counsel.

“So he wants to play games. Let him play games,” Rivera said. “He is a person that shouldn’t be striving for a more intense investigation.”

Schaer said the mayor’s office has asked the city’s attorneys, Scarinci & Hollenbeck, to cooperate with the investigation and review documents. Donald Scarinci, the firm’s founding partner, did not return calls for comment Wednesday, nor did the six other council members.

Schaer questioned whether Scarinci & Hollenbeck, which has represented the city for 14 years, could handle an advisory position to the council, given their ties to the city and the amount of time that would be required to advise the council on matters related to the federal investigation.

Schaer does not know how much money the council would need for an additional lawyer.

Some residents on Wednesday questioned the need for an additional lawyer to represent the city, which has a budget for 2007 of $72.8 million and is paying Scarinci & Hollenbeck $500,000 a year to represent the city.

“Did he not feel they were adequate over a 14-year period?” said former mayor Marge Semler. “And why is he questioning their ability this time?”

Resident Kenneth Washington, who railed against Schaer at Tuesday’s meeting, accusing him of condemning Rivera and Jackson before they’ve even been tried, said he did not think contracting with another lawyer made fiscal sense.

“Who’s going to pay for it?” he said.

Washington said he felt that the appointment of additional counsel might put more pressure on Councilman Jackson to resign, something he opposed.

“They want him to be the scapegoat,” Washington said. “Everyone’s innocent until proven guilty.”

Walter Porto, the former Planning Board chairman, also was dubious of the council president’s motives.

“Is there anything that he (Gary Schaer) owes to anybody that he wants to repay that individual by giving him a contract with the city of Passaic? Porto said. “There is no need for a special counsel in the city of Passaic to affirm what the FBI already found, or overturn what the FBI already found.”

The council has scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss appointing the independent counsel.

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