HOBOKEN, NJ – Sources have revealed that John Allen, a full-time member of the Hoboken Administration, has been holding second job with the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP.
Allen’s position with the firm came to light after twitter user @HobokenMatters first posted the information on that platform. According to Allen’s bio on the firm’s website, “From small business owners to large-scale developers, John navigates all aspects of local, county and State government on behalf of his clients.” Furthermore, the bio reads, “Serving as a strategic advisor to two of New Jersey's more prominent mayors, John has developed an extensive network of contacts in both public and private sectors throughout the State. John continues to work for the City of Hoboken in the Office of Corporation Counsel where he serves as Board Counsel to the Hoboken Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, John P. Allen initially joined Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP in May 2016. He seemingly left the firm in 2017 to become Chief of Staff for the City of Hoboken in December 2017, after an unsuccessful run for City Council on Mayor Bhalla’s ticket. He served in the final days of the Zimmer Administration, filling a position vacated by Vijay Chaudhuri—who had then left for another role elsewhere, returning to Hoboken City Hall about a year later. In late December 2019, Allen was reshuffled to serve in the office Corporation Counsel, alongside Brian Aloia.
“John has been invaluable partner to me as my Chief of Staff and has established strong working relationships across county and state government,” said Mayor Bhalla, in a statement on December 27, 2019. “I’d like to thank John for his service, and we are lucky to have an attorney who brings both public and private sector experience to address the legal challenges facing the City of Hoboken in a professional, ethical, and cost-effective manner.”
Three months later, Allen then “re-joined” the firm in March 2020. TAPinto Hoboken reached out to Allen directly for more information on the role. Our questions were subsequently answered not by Allen, but instead by City Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri.
According to the City Spokesman, “As permitted by City ordinance, and is common practice in municipalities across the State, attorneys in Hoboken’s Office of Corporation Counsel are permitted to maintain private law practice that does not interfere with City business. Any private legal work performed by attorneys in the Office of Corporation Counsel, as required, is done outside of City working hours, and on matters that have no potential conflicts with the City of Hoboken.”
The Bhalla Administration has maintained a glaring precedent in these matters, with the Mayor himself taking on an “Of Counsel” role with Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen, P.C.—a New Jersey-based law firm that practices in Zoning, Planning & Land Use and Real Estate. News of the Mayor’s position, first covered by hMAG, came just weeks into his administration.
While the Mayor’s role has been seen as remarkable by many, others assert that the practice is common among members of an administration.
“I served as an Assistant City Attorney for the City Of Hoboken from 1988 through 1993. All the lawyers who worked in the Law Department during that time and prior thereto maintained private practices in addition to providing legal counsel to the city,” Edward J. Florio, ESQ, tells TAPinto Hoboken. “Additionally, with more than 30 years of experience working and consulting with municipal legal departments across the State of New Jersey, I can state with absolute certainty and without equivocation that it is common for municipal attorneys to maintain private legal practices. This enables municipal governments to retain and be advised by excellent lawyers with vast experience in many areas of the law. Such practice is neither new nor unique to the City of Hoboken.”
While the precedent is there, the case of Allen doesn’t sit right with Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who has been scrutinizing salaries and positions within the Administration’s upper echelon, as the City executed layoffs in mid April 2020 to grapple with a significant budget shortfall.
“Other than the comfortable dishonesty of not disclosing to the City Counsel during last year’s budget hearings, John is paid almost $140k as full-time advisor to the mayor—including a stipend for evening work,” said Fisher. “He is paid more than our Corporation Counsel and $30k more than his female counterpart.”
Following a contentious, ongoing battle, the 2020 budget was approved last September—primarily because a failure to do so would make it legally impossible for the City to collect taxes in the fourth quarter. In June, the City Council was forced to override a Mayoral veto in eliminating the Office of Constituent Affairs, a position that was re-instituted by the Bhalla Administration after his predecessor, Dawn Zimmer, had discontinued the office.
“Do you think it’s fair to taxpayers to pay such a high salary for someone with a job that potentially conflicts with his Hoboken role? I don’t,” said Fisher. “Hoboken taxpayers deserve better.”
According to the firm, Allen, “focuses his legal practice on land use, redevelopment, employment law, liquor licensing, governmental affairs, and municipal litigation.”
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