Thoughts on Mayor Steven Fulop’s departure from NJ’s 2017 governor’s race

Real Jersey City publisher Michael Shurin shares exclusive information and analysis regarding the shocking departure of Mayor Steven Fulop from the 2017 New Jersey governor’s race.

JCPSOA Pres. Robert Kearns  - Mayor Steven Fulop - James Carroll (PSOA) - (Where is JCPSOA 1st VP Corso?)

JCPSOA Pres. Robert Kearns – Mayor Steven Fulop – James Carroll (PSOA) – (Where is JCPSOA 1st VP Corso?)

In light of Mayor Steven Fulop dropping out of the governor’s race, and given information acquired through confidential sources and media reports, I’ve been compelled to try and connect some dots.

Below is the brief Real Jersey City analysis.

First things first, obviously Fulop is nervous about testifying in the Bridgegate trial and discussing his work for Foreign Auto Processing Systems (FAPS). At the same time, it’s hard to imagine the FAPS issue causing the sudden end of a promising campaign for governor.

It’s been in the news. The politicos knew it was coming. What caused the shocking turn of events?

According to NJBIZ, the apparent demise of Fulop will be his relationship with Hudson County political operative Tom Bertoli. The line below strongly suggests financial corruption is at play (possibly bribes):

And while no source indicated Fulop had done anything illegal — “I don’t think he ever took a penny from anyone” — the appearance of impropriety may have been too much.

In addition to being Fulop’s top political operative, Bertoli does work as an “expediter” for developers and contractors looking to build in Jersey City.

What’s interesting is that NJBIZ is the first and only news source to report Bertoli’s name. This is pure speculation, but NJBIZ is a media outlet the focuses more on business than insider politics, which leads me to guess that someone involved with the business community was pushing that story.

Now let’s flashback to May 3, 2016, about a month after the mayor began “rethinking his support for North Jersey casinos,” when Fulop attacked South Jersey political boss George Norcross through Politicker NJ:

“I know that people will say that Christie and Norcross will use, as they have done in the past, government entities and law enforcement in Trenton to intimidate me – however, the truth is the truth.

“Residents throughout the state should ask themselves some simple questions — why is an insurance broker, a non-elected official, who has made tens of millions of dollars on the backs of public taxpayers actively involved in drafting Atlantic City’s takeover bill and then lobbying for it all over New Jersey?”

UPDATE: After publication, a source close to Bertoli informed Real Jersey City that Fulop pulled his support for North Jersey gaming after potential casino operators committed money to political action committees controlled by Norcross. This editorial previously cited potential consulting work for Bertoli with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission being at issue, which was heavily disputed. 

In retrospect, Fulop may have been disingenuous regarding casino expansion when he said “I’m not reluctant to say that sometimes I make a mistake and my position can change based on new information.”

Coincidentally, a few hours after Fulop’s press conference at least 200 trade union members packed the Jersey City Council chambers demanding a resolution be passed supporting North Jersey casinos. The city hall rally came about a week after Our Turn NJ, a pro-casino expansion campaign, announced they were suspending their paid media activity due to bad polling.

Now, before I talk Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) off-duty jobs, I have to address the conspiracy being floated regarding ex-Chief Robert “Bubba” Cowan and gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy.

Essentially, beyond what was published by Politicker NJ, the bizarre conspiracy is that Cowan is on Murphy’s payroll and possesses a recording of Fulop demanding Bridgegate-esque traffic at the Holland Tunnel. The conspiracy alleges Murphy threatened Fulop with the recording, demanding the mayor drop out the race and endorse him for governor.

It’s hogwash.

Neither Cowan nor Murphy could possibly be stupid enough to participate in such criminal behavior. Plus, it’s rumored by some in the JCPD that Cowan is working with the Attorney General (unclear whether state or federal).

As well, according to a source close to him, it’s Bertoli pushing the conspiracy following Cowan’s surprise appearance at Fulop and Murphy’s press conference.

So why would Cowan be at the press conference? Besides celebrating Fulop’s downfall, look no further than the guy he claimed the mayor fired him for – Sgt. Vincent Corso.

Documents obtained by Real Jersey City prior to Fulop’s announcement show that on September 26, 2016, Corso, who serves as 1st VP of the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association (JCPSOA), was finally punished for his infamous Robbinsville incident.

It took 970 days for the JCPD to punish Corso by taking 15 compensatory and vacation days from him for, among others, resisting being disarmed of his loaded gun. I’m sure former JCPD Detective William Kallert, and at least one other JCPD cop, might feel Internal Affairs justice isn’t so equal.

So was it coincidental he was punished right before Fulop’s announcement? I think not.

Also, let me be clear, the Feds have been in Jersey City for at least two years investigating off-duty jobs with the JCPD. No wonder Washington D.C. is the 6th most popular state/territory for Real Jersey City.

Were they watching the Corso surveillance story? Maybe the Lt. Terrence Crowley story? Maybe it was the one about Capt. Leonidas “Lou” Karras? Or were they reading about Chief Philip Zacche’s questionable off-duty job in the Marion Gardens Housing Complex?

All we know is that they haven’t seen the one about Greg Kierce probably not living in Jersey City (unless my electronic communications are being monitored).

Jersey City OEM Director Greg Kierce

Jersey City OEM Director Greg Kierce

While it had been rumored for a few months, on Sept. 14, 2016 it became official when ex-Jersey City cop Juan Romaniello pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and accept corrupt payments for his role in the JCPD off-duty jobs program – according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Unfortunately, the media only read the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Inside the “information” attached to the release are these potential clues:

In or about May 2013, in Jersey City, JUAN ROMANIELLO received a $440 cash payment from an excavating company/off-duty employer in exchange for JUAN ROMANIELLO violating his official duty under the Jersey City Municipal Code to ensure that such off-duty payments were made in compliance with the Jersey City Municipal Code and other policies and procedures.

In or about August 2013, in Jersey City, JUAN ROMANIELLO accepted a $400 cash payment from a contractor/off-duty employer in exchange for JUAN ROMANIELLO violating his official duty under the Jersey City Municipal Code to ensure that such off-duty payments were made in compliance with the Jersey City Municipal Code and other policies and procedures.

An “excavating company” and “contractor” were part of a corrupt payment scheme with off-duty jobs. Not particularly shocking, but both businesses could probably use an “expediter” when dealing with local government.

Rumors have been flying that up to twenty seven JCPD officers could be caught up in the investigation.

It’s hogwash. I’m guessing somewhere around five.

Finally, everything at this point is a conspiracy except one thing – The Feds are Back in Town!

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