Jersey City group demands release of voicemail at center of lawsuit

The voicemail was purportedly recorded in 2014.

JERSEY CITY -- Local good government group Civic JC is calling for the release of a voicemail two city officials have said includes former aides to Mayor Steve Fulop discussing an attempt to steer a city contract to a favored company.

Barbara Camacho, the acting president of the group, told the City Council last night that releasing the voicemail, which the city has refused to hand over to an attorney seeking a copy of it, would "ensure the transparency and accountability" Fulop promised when he was elected four years ago.

"Government works best when its activities are well known to the public it serves," Camacho said.

News of the voicemail, purportedly recorded in 2014, surfaced last month after attorney Gregory Noble filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the city to release it under the state Open Public Records Act. Noble says he wants the voicemail as part of another lawsuit filed by a city worker who says he was harassed and improperly demoted by Anthony Cruz, the director of the city Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce.

As part of that lawsuit, Noble deposed Business Administrator Bob Kakoleski and one of Kakoleski's aides, Dominick Pandolfo, who both testified that a voicemail left for Kakoleski in February 2014 by then-Fulop aides Muhammed Akil included an accidentally recorded conversation Akil had with then-HEDC Deputy Director Shawn "Sully" Thomas. Kakoleski and Pandolfo said in the depositions that they interpreted the conversation as part of an effort to steer a city contract for an energy consultant to a specific company. Kakoleski said that he ended the bid process because he believed it had been "compromised." The contract was never awarded.

Fulop has said the release of the depositions "reeks of political season" and noted that Pandolfo was once an aide to Jerramiah Healy, whom Fulop unseated in the 2013 mayor's race.

Kakoleski testified that he forwarded a copy of the voicemail to Pandolfo, who said he retained a copy of it. One Fulop supporter mocked the effort to obtain a copy of the recording as "equivalent to asking Obama for his birth certificate."

Civic JC was most recently headed by Esther Wintner, who stepped down to run for an at-large council seat on the ticket of mayoral hopeful Bill Matsikoudis, who is challenging Fulop's bid for a second term on Nov. 7.

City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill declined to comment.

Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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Article Jersey City group demands release of voicemail at center of lawsuit compiled by www.nj.com

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