When you’re a mayor in a heavily Latino district it helps to have someone around who speaks Spanish, and if you’re looking to offer favors in exchange for hogtying political rivals it is also helpful to have someone in a service organization who can help deliver those favors.
Union City Mayor Brian Stack has both in the form of Christopher Irizarry, according to mayors allied with the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), which continues to battle Stack for control of the politically-charged county, and which refuses to cede any ground to the 33rd district insurgent and presumptive state senator who ran against the organization and won the Democratic Primary in June.
This latest stanza in the Stack saga has its roots that primary, in fact, when a roomful of skeptical reporters listened as Assemblyman ( and West New York Mayor Sal Vega) played a tape he said was his opponent in the race for senate.
"If I can help her with her first month’s rent and PSE&G bill, I would be happy to do that," a voice reputed to be Stack tells translator Irizarry, who relays the information to Delcia Rodriguez, a candidate for county committee running against Stack’s candidate to represent Union City.
Vega played the tape as an example of what he said is Stack’s propensity to intimidate political rivals. Confronted with the information, Stack told PoliticsNJ.com, "Anybody who comes to me, I help them. I help people pay their rent and their PSE&G bills out of my civic association because we’re in a poor community."
But the HCDO questions why Irizarry, who is CEO of the mostly federally funded North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), was at that meeting with Rodriguez in the first place.
"It's peculiar that when Stack promised to pay that county committee candidate’s rent and PSE&G bill in exchange for her to drop out of the race, Chris Irizarry left her his NHCAC business card," said Jack Bohrer, speaking on behalf of North Hudson mayors aligned with the HCDO. "Aren’t those the kinds of services NHCAC uses federal money to help with? Who was going to make good on Stack's political deal? His civic association with the non-profit status or Irizarry's federally-funded organization?"
At a meeting last Monday, the NHCAC attempted to renew Irizarry’s contract, only to run into an objection by counsel representing those mayors tied to the HCDO, including North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. At issue is Irizarry’s three-year, $600,000 contract with the NHCAC, which includes a bonus of a year’s salary if the contract is not renewed.
The mayors complained that not all North Hudson towns are adequately represented on the board and that Irizarry contract is "excessive and inappropriate for an agency that is supposed to be serving the poor and combating poverty." The mayors also objected to the proposal that any vote to cancel the contract would need a 2/3 "super-majority."
Bohrer conceded that Hudson County is synonymous with political intrigue and political leveraging, but insisted this situation with Irizarry is a little different.
"Almost every government contract in Hudson County is a year-long contract," Bohrer said. "We’re talking here about a three-year contract plus a full year of severance pay."
Irizarry was not available for comment.