Two Star-Ledger reporters write in a new book that Harold "Bud" Demellier, campaign manager for Mayor Healy's 2009 re-election bid, took $20,000 cash from "David Esenbach"—the infamous Solomon Dwek—as payment for "consulting". The revelation comes a year and a half after deputy mayor Leona Beldini, a close personal friend of Healy and the mayor's 2009 campaign treasurer, was arrested with more than forty others in a sting that had Dwek handing out envelopes of cash in every Hudson berg.
In addition to Beldini—who was convicted of bribery but has been allowed to await the disposition of her appeal before she begins her three-year prison sentence—Carl Czaplicki, Healy's former chief-of-staff and currently the Jersey City housing and commerce director, admitted to being the "JC Official" in the charge and indictment of Joseph Cardwell, another political operative and former "alternate" commissioner on the Municipal Utilities Authority board.
Czaplicki has never answered for the allegations in the Cardwell case. Cardwell admitted—swore to it in federal court, knowing he would be sentenced to prison—that he accepted bribes from Dwek that were destined for Czaplicki's desired cause, the municipal elections. (At a meeting, Czaplicki refused an envelope of cash offered outright by Dwek.)
Now the Star-Ledger brings us a portrait of kleptocrat Demellier, who sees no conflict between his $128,000-a-year county job as director of the roads and public property department and moonlighting as a cash-advance "consultant" to shady real estate developers:
"This was someone I thought was involved in a syndicate that had money," he said from behind the desk in his seventh-floor corner office of the county administration building. It is the same office that can be seen in the surveillance video Dwek shot. Demellier said Dwek never gave him money for Healy’s campaign and he denied ever trying to sell influence. Asked if he mentioned his involvement with Dwek to Healy, Demellier replied, "I don’t remember."
Stop and appreciate the excuse: Demellier thought Dwek represented a moneyed interest and did not see that Dwek was a buffoonish con-man turned F.B.I. mole. Because that would have made it better. He acknowledges no bad faith in taking a payment that amounts to around sixth of his salary to "consult" on the best "development opportunities" in the county in which Demellier had a high-level, executive job.
Healy, through a spokeswoman, declined comment.
Former acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, who was running the investigation when it became public, had nothing to say about Demellier. The current U.S. attorney, Paul Fishman, said he would not discuss any pieces of the Dwek case that have not been made public through official channels, including what—if anything—investigators were pursuing in connection with Healy. [emphasis mine] ...
Federal prosecutors never made it a secret that they were interested in Healy. Never accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the case, the colorful Jersey City mayor nevertheless played a starring role in other stark surveillance videos captured by Dwek. At a March 2009 sit-down at the Medical Center Luncheonette, Healy met with political consultant Jack Shaw, Jersey City Housing Authority commissioner Ed Cheatam, Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and Dwek.
At the meeting, Healy did not respond to any of Dwek’s attempts to draw him into the sting. At one point, he tells the mayor he wants his permit applications on the "top" of the pile.
Healy simply laughs.
"We like to smooth the path for people to invest in our city," was all the mayor said, referring Dwek to the city’s planning office.
In other surveillance recordings and transcripts released during Beldini’s trial, Shaw was also heard trying to set up meetings aimed at putting Dwek and Healy together.
Beldini was ultimately convicted in February 2010 of accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions for Healy’s campaign. Shaw died just days after his arrest in the case.
Demellier’s introduction to Dwek came at the end of a chain of meetings with others tied to the sting operation, which the FBI called Operation Bid Rig III. According to records and transcripts, Maher Khalil, then-Jersey City’s assistant director of health and a former member of the zoning board who has already pleaded guilty in the case, put Dwek in touch with former Jersey City councilman Tom Fricchione. Then Fricchione introduced Esenbach to Demellier.
Demellier insists he never took any money for Healy's campaign. "Colorful" is an interesting way of describing Mayor Healy.
Demellier, when asked about the surveillance video and his meetings with Dwek, said he had an outside consulting company called DUB Inc. He had agreed to help the man he knew as Esenbach with development opportunities. "He never showed any knowledge of zoning laws," Demellier said. "He never had any building plans. I got irritated a little because he had no plans."
He did not believe the consulting business conflicted with his role as a county official. He said Dwek never gave him money for Healy’s campaign. He denied ever trying to sell influence.
At first, he said he not spoken with FBI agents about the matter. A few minutes later, he corrected himself and said he spoke to the FBI only once, when one of the agents connected to the case called after the takedown. But, he said, "they didn’t ask me anything."
Just a courtesy call then.
So, Healy-allied City Council members Mariano Vega and Phil Kenny; Healy-backed council candidate Guy Catrillo; deputy mayor and Healy friend Leona Beldini; and Healy campaign manager Bud Demellier all admit to or have been convicted of accepting cash payments from the oafish, poorly-prepared "developer" David Esenbach. Former chief of staff and current department director Carl Czaplicki has been implicated in sworn testimony of doing the same thing, although, like Beldini, he ordered the goods sent to the first cause, the municipal campaigns.
Mayor Healy's closest political associates have an extremely warped sense of right and wrong in public service.
They accepted around $100,000 of Dwek's cash between them. That's a hell of a lot of money in a municipal election. So far, none have answered for it publicly—save for their prison sentences.
Speaking of which, wasn't Mariano Vega supposed to be sentenced on the eighth? One wonders why was the sentencing postponed again.