CARTERET — Ex-Mayor James Failace has emerged after six years of public silence, leveling personal attacks to stir up political support for candidates challenging allies of the current mayor in the weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
Failace, whose bid for re-election was defeated by Mayor Daniel Reiman in a 2002 landslide, made allegations during a recent Borough Council meeting concerning a real estate partnership formed in 2005 by Reiman, Middlesex County Freeholder Ronald Rios and Hank D’Orsi, the owner of H. D’Orsi Contractor.
Reiman said business venture, called HD Partnership, was formed in September 2005 to buy an abandoned gas station on South Pine Street in South Amboy for $240,000 and spent another $60,000 on remediation and environmental agency approvals. Each partner held a one-third interest in the project.
Despite the fact that annual formal written public disclosures were made since 2005 by the two officials about the deal involving property outside the borough, Failace said “I think it’s a conflict of interest. There’s something unethical and immoral about it.”
Reiman countered by saying Failace is practicing “the politics of personal destruction.”
To set the record straight in light of what he called, “vicious personal attacks,” Reiman filed a request for an advisory opinion with the State Ethics Board, a division of the Department of Community Affairs. The panel has not yet issued a ruling but a department official told the Atom Tabloid, “There really appears to be no merit to the accusations.”
“It appears the mayor did everything he was supposed to do,” the official added. “He filed financial disclosure forms with the borough clerk’s office and the state every year that he owned an interest in the partnership.”
Reiman contends that he has been transparent about his participation in the venture and charged that Failace merely wants to score political points in the election.
“As an elected official I’m obligated to file disclosure forms annually,” said Reiman. “I inform the public (about) everything I own or earn and it is sad that those who practice the politics of personal destruction remain welcome among the opposition party.”
Rios, who was a councilman at the time, also reported his involvement in the partnership on the financial disclosure forms and he notified the borough clerk that he would recuse himself from any council matter involving D’Orsi because of the business relationship. Rios became a Middlesex County Freeholder earlier this year.
Reiman said he intentionally decided not to participate in real estate investments in Carteret to avoid accusations like those leveled by the vanquished politician.
“I’ve owned property in Carteret before, residential units that I’ve bought and sold prior to becoming mayor,” he said. “When I became mayor I said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to raise any issues and avoid any potential conflicts by not investing in my own town.’”
In May 2007, Reiman sold his share in the property to D’Orsi to move on with another unrelated investment. Rios and D’Orsi decided to sell the property, which is still on the market.
D’Orsi’s firm has performed demolition work throughout the state for many decades.
Reiman said the only reason D’Orsi’s construction company has been awarded projects in the borough is because his bids came in lower than those of any competitor.
“New Jersey law says the work has to go to the lowest bidder,” he said. “Mr. D’Orsi has done work around town for 40 years and has saved the taxpayers in this town and others millions of dollars.”
The company was awarded a $7,800 demolition contract by the borough in August 2005 after submitting the lowest bid to knock down a two-story home on Atlantic Street. Five other council members voted to approve the resolution, while Rios did not vote.
The mayor presides over council meetings, but does not award contracts or vote unless there is a tie.
D’Orsi’s firm was awarded two more contracts in 2006, one of which saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, where D’Orsi bid $10,200 to demolish a Pershing Avenue building.
Failace argued that the municipal officials should, “invest money in something else” with a rant that they should “Invest in the stock market, invest in mutual funds.”
An observer said it is worth noting that while the ex-mayor was promoting investments in stocks and mutual funds, millions of Americans were losing their life savings as Wall Street stocks crashed.
Reiman and Rios both attribute criticism of their business involvement to election-year politicking.
“They’re making false accusations because it’s a political ploy and it’s campaign season,” said Reiman, who is not on the ballot year. “This is Jim Failace 101, for 20 years he has leveled personal attacks against all of his opponents; attacking anyone in his way, including former Mayor Sica and any councilperson who dared to challenge his dictates.”
The year after he was thrown out as mayor, Failace was soundly rejected by the voters of Carteret as a 2003 Republican council nominee.
Failace is openly and publicly supportive of a council slate—made up of independent candidates John Nartowicz, Kevin Urban and Louis Mangieri—that has not yet released any platform or ideas to improve Carteret.
Democrats charge that the insurgents would like to turn back the clock and return to the kind of decline Carteret suffered for years under Failace.
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