HOBOKEN - The executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority is vowing legal action to fight his firing at Monday night's Housing Board meeting. Carmelo Garcia was terminated two weeks after his granting of no-bid contracts to political supporters became the subject of a Kane In Your Corner investigation.
The board meeting was so raucous, with so many of Garcia's supporters yelling at board members, that at one point police were asked to clear the room.
"He's been a great leader," complains Barbara Reyes, a Housing Authority resident who believes Garcia's firing is politically motivated. "He's made many changes at the Housing Authority. We're much safer than we were 10 years ago."
Garcia, who is also a state assemblyman, argues the large turnout of supporters shows he's done a good job. "These are the clients. This is who they should listen to," he says.
Some board members have expressed serious concerns about the way Garcia has spent Housing Authority funds. Two weeks ago, Kane In Your Corner investigated millions of dollars in no-bid repair contracts Garcia handed out to three firms in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Those firms then donated thousands of dollars to Garcia's Assembly campaign.
Some political analysts say that while ethically suspect, it is unlikely those contracts would have violated pay-to-play laws since the contracts were technically issued on behalf of one agency and the contributions were taken on behalf of another. Other experts say there appears to be a conflict of interest so Garcia's conduct might violate state ethics laws.