ILLICIT ACTIONS OF MAYOR LABROSSE IN REGARD TO HIS EMPLOYER, HACKENSACK UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
In 1996, the then City Council recognized that Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) was utilizing a great deal of City services at no cost to them as a result of their tax-exempt status, a situation proving costly to local taxpayers. Negotiations then took place between the City and HUMC which resulted in a Developers Agreement concerning the construction of 20 Prospect Avenue, the Medical Plaza. HUMC agreed to hold title to the building in a manner rendering it taxable until the year 2041. Last year, HUMC paid 4.5 million dollars in property taxes to the City of Hackensack and was the second largest project on the tax roll.
In 2002, a second Developers Agreement between the City and HUMC was created. This pertained to the construction of a parking facility at the corner of Atlantic and Newman Streets. HUMC again agreed to own the structure in a manner that ensured its taxability. Additionally, HUMC agreed to pay for a crossing guard to be stationed at the Atlantic/Newman Street intersection due to the volume of pedestrian children walking to school along with the projected increase of auto traffic resulting from the construction of that parking facility. The annual cost of the crossing guard’s salary and benefits is approximately $30,000.
In 2008, a third Developers Agreement was negotiated in connection with the new Cancer Center and adjacent parking facility. Although HUMC readily agreed to pay its fair share along with all other Hackensack property taxpayers, they asked that their payments be classified as lease payments for air rights in locations where they built pedestrian walkways over City streets. In 2016, the air rights rental payment to the City of Hackensack had grown to half a million dollars annually. Additionally, HUMC agreed to provide free ambulance service to Hackensack residents, with a value of $140,000 per year.
Those agreements were all honored by HUMC for many years up until 2015. At an Executive (private) Session meeting of the City Council on February 23, 2015, the first Labrosse backroom deal was set in motion. Agreement was reached (with a clearly conflicted Labrosse, a HUMC employee, participating) to “flat rate” the annual air rights rental to less than half of what HUMC had been paying, eliminate the free ambulance service for residents, and cancel HUMC’s obligation to pick up the cost of the crossing guards’ salary which they had been doing pursuant to the 2002 agreement.
An analysis of the financial breakdown of what the “February 23, 2015 taxpayer massacre” cost the residents of Hackensack was undertaken by a CPA who is both a Certified Municipal Finance Officer and a Certified School Finance Officer, as well as a practicing Auditor.
As a result of his audit, the CPA concluded that the “backroom deal” struck by Labrosse and his Council will cost our taxpayers 23 million dollars over the course of the agreement! (Click here to see a year by year breakdown of lost tax revenue.)
Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. In June of 2016, Labrosse and the Council approved another “backroom deal” with HUMC that ended the 1996 Developers Agreement. The annual taxes on the Medical Plaza had reached a level of 4.5 million dollars per year with 24 more years to run on that agreement. In a slap in the face of every Hackensack taxpayer, the Labrosse Team agreed to take 3.4 million dollars per year for a period only guaranteed for 15 years. Even if that agreement is renewed for the 24 years left on the 1996 agreement, Hackensack taxpayers are out over another 24 million dollars.
Why would the Mayor of Hackensack voluntarily give up over 47 million dollars in tax revenue which then must be made up by every other Hackensack taxpayer?
ILLEGAL RAISE FOR COUNCILMAN BATTAGLIA’S WIFE, A CITY EMPLOYEE
One thing that can be said about Mayor Labrosse is that his dishonesty is not used solely to benefit himself. He also takes care of his cronies. When Councilman Battaglia’s wife was preparing to retire from her City job, a decision was apparently made to “pad” her pension by giving her, alone, a raise even though she was a member of a union covered by a contractual agreement with the City. Her 21% raise was so excessive that it violated that agreement. The Labrosse Team initially rescinded it and then, in a routine abuse of their power, restored it retroactively. Her co-workers were outraged and her entire department sued the City. As a result of their settlement, the entire department received raises, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
It didn’t end there. Her entire union filed an unfair labor practice complaint and now taxpayers are facing thousands of dollars more being wasted so that Mrs. Battaglia could retire in luxury.
What made Labrosse’s and Battaglia’s actions even more of a mockery toward taxpayers was Battaglia’s promise as a candidate in 2013 when he said, “As a councilman, I will make sure we hire the most qualified people at the best price and stop rewarding the politically connected with your tax money.” Really? He wasn’t aware that his “politically connected” wife’s 21% raise came out of “your tax money?”
THE LABROSSE POLITICAL MACHINE IS RUNNING THEIR RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN WITH YOUR TAXPAYER MONEY OUT OF THE HACKENSACK CITY BUDGET
That question was answered in August of 2016 when a former City Manager, hired by Labrosse, revealed that he was pressured by Labrosse to facilitate a promotion and salary increase for the Mayor in his private employment at HUMC.
When the Labrosse Team ran as “reformers” in 2013, they proclaimed in their campaign literature that if they won, “There will be zero tolerance for secret back room deals.” Apparently, they decided to tolerate “secret back room deals” as long as those deals result in a salary increase and promotion for Mayor Labrosse. As for the taxpayers of Hackensack? Don’t worry, you’ll be done paying off Labrosse’s promotion in 2041.
Click here to see text messages between Labrosse, his City Manager, and a HUMC representative about his promotion and raise.
In addition to having misused taxpayer funds for political purposes, another troubling aspect of this is that the list which was purchased with taxpayer money contained information on 12,041 Hackensack residents describing their religion, ethnicity, language, income, age, date of birth, political party affiliation and multi-year voting record. It is disgraceful that elected officials would compile that amount of information on their own residents. To have done it using the residents own tax dollars makes it all the more outrageous.
Incredibly, the Labrosse Team boldly continues to use taxpayer funds to finance their campaign. They have now started purchasing tickets to local events out of the City of Hackensack budget to conduct their campaign activities, again unprecedented, again illegal.
The rampant corruption of the Labrosse Administration has cost Hackensack taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. They seem to be getting bolder and bolder about dipping into the City budget to promote themselves and to pay for their personal and political activities. It’s hard to imagine the cost to Hackensack taxpayers should they win a new four year term.
Hard to believe? That’s because it has never been done before by any incumbent Council since it is illegal! It started with campaign mailings costing taxpayers $50,000. Mayor Labrosse defended the mailings, saying that taxpayers should pay for the mailings because they were sent to “taxpayers.” His campaign consultant said that taxpayers should pay for the mailings because they were sent to “residents.” After one resident’s OPRA request exposed their lies, the campaign consultant admitted that the taxpayer funded mailings were actually sent to targeted voters from a list that was purchased with more taxpayer money! Mayor Labrosse refused to comment, possibly on advice of legal counsel and under the protection of the 5th Amendment.
A complaint was filed with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the Bergen County Prosecutor. A number of Labrosse’s campaign consultant’s former government clients have been criminally charged in the past. We will have to wait and see how it plays out in Hackensack.