FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hoboken, N.J. – In September, Hoboken Councilwomen Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher learned that the law firm Schenk, Price, Smith & King was handling the ownership restructuring of two local Hoboken bars who hold liquor licenses: McSwiggan’s and Green Rock. In any other place, this would not seem extraordinary. However, in Hoboken, former Chief of Staff to Mayor Bhalla named John Allen, a city employee, was serving as attorney for the local Alcohol and Beverage Commission Board at the time while also employed as one of Schenck Price’s attorneys - a clear conflict of interest.
Alarmed by this finding, the councilwomen set out to get more information. In response to the most recent OPRA request filed by Council Vice President Giattino on October 15th, she was first told she would not receive a response until November 10th, after the upcoming election where the mayor and three City Council seats are being contested. After pushing back on this, Giattino received an email from Hoboken’s Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia on October 20th confirming what the councilwomen had learned almost two months prior, that
“John Allen indicated that the firm he is affiliated with has taken on representation of a client that has a liquor license.”
This came two days after Mr. Aloia had emailed Giattino with his initial response stating that he had no knowledge of his own employee John Allen's law firm representing liquor license holders in Hoboken. Confusing things further, in a Hudson County View article on October 22nd, a spokesperson for the Bhalla administration stated that Allen resigned as counsel to the ABC Board on October 13th upon learning that a Hoboken license holder retained an attorney at Schenck Price.
With the dates not adding up, and what appears to be an effort to obscure the facts, Councilwomen Giattino and Fisher are calling for an investigation into this matter and are releasing the following statements:
From Council Vice President Giattino -
‘We learned that Schenk Price was representing at least one liquor license holder back in September. So, getting these responses from Hoboken’s Corporation Counsel means that Hoboken either has no controls in place to manage conflicts like this or the Bhalla administration condones this behavior, or both.” Said Council Vice President Giattino. “It is not acceptable that John Allen, who the mayor considers his ‘liaison to the bars and restaurants’, while serving as ABC board attorney representing Hoboken in connection with all liquor license holder matters, is also working for a law firm that now represents license holders before this same board.”
From Councilwoman Fisher -
“Our understanding is Allen stepped down from his role as ABC Board Attorney this week and on the heels of Councilwoman Giattino’s October 15th OPRA request.” says Councilwoman Fisher. “This is not an issue of recusal or even resignation from the position. This is a material conflict and breach of attorney ethics for all involved, not just Mr. Allen. How does Schenk Price knowingly take on clients that go before Hoboken’s ABC Board when on their own website they describe Allen as serving as Board Counsel for that same board? And what does it say for Hoboken’s mayor and corporation counsel, both attorneys, who allow this to happen under their watch?”
Councilwomen Giattino and Fisher are calling for an investigation into all parties. This is their second request for an investigation into questionable ethics practices by the Bhalla administration. On August 11th, Giattino and Fisher submitted a request to the DCA and the Office of Attorney General asking for an investigation into Mayor Bhalla for negotiating with and ultimately offering Councilwoman Vanessa Falco a future role for her in his administration in lieu of her not running for re-election against his Team Bhalla slate. The outcome of that investigation is still pending.
Council Vice President Jen Giattino – 201-780-6779 or [email protected]
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher - 201-208-1674 or [email protected]