UPDATED—5:15 p.m.; 6:37 p.m.; 7:50 p.m.; 9:42 a.m. (February 4)
The City of Hoboken has announced that Stephen Marks will no longer be serving as Business Administrator.
Effective February 16, Marks is reportedly leaving Hoboken to serve as the Business Administrator in the Township of Kearny—where he currently resides with his family.
“I thank Stephen Marks for his seven years of service to Hoboken,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “He has played a critical role in the day-to-day operations of municipal government, and a number of our quality of life initiatives including the Northwest Park, Southwest Park, revitalization of Washington Street, creation of a Special Improvement District, a re-negotiated agreement with SUEZ, and more. Hoboken was very fortunate to have his expertise and guidance, and I wish him well in his next role.”
The Business Administrator is the chief operations officer for the City of Hoboken and is responsible for overseeing the operation of all municipal departments and employees. Those responsibilities will be shared by Assistant Business Administrator Caleb Stratton and Operations Director Jason Freeman until a replacement is named.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who serves as co-chair of the City Council Finance Committee, told hMAG, “While I wish Director Marks all the success in his next endeavor, the immediate focus of Mayor Bhalla should be finding a new Business Administrator.”
The City of Hoboken is currently facing significant budgetary challenges, namely a projected $7 million budgetary shortfall that has sparked talk of potential municipal layoffs.
“Given the complexities that Hoboken faces, not the least of which is a significant budget shortfall that needs to be addressed this year, I urged Mayor Bhalla to do a wide search to find the best and most experienced person for the role. It’s what taxpayers and residents deserve and we can’t afford to get this hire wrong.”
Councilman Michael DeFusco echoed those sentiments in a statement released soon after the announcement of Marks’ departure.
“The sudden resignation of a long-time business administrator as the City deals with a multi-million dollar budget deficit is alarming. Director Marks is a professional respected across the state and it’s unfortunate the mayor has consistently taken a spend now, worry later approach to put the state of our finances in jeopardy,” said DeFusco. “Without the director at the helm, I am concerned about this administration’s ability to prevent a massive tax increase in this year’s budget. The City Council is prepared to work with the Mayor and provide all of the resources necessary to recruit a suitable replacement but now it’s up to him to stop staffing political operatives within City Hall and work on a cogent, long term policy to restore fiscal responsibility in Hoboken.”
To DeFusco’s comments, Hoboken City Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri told hMAG, “8 of the 9 Hoboken councilmembers are working collaboratively together with the administration to enact a responsible budget. We encourage Councilman DeFusco to press pause on his political ambitions and work with the Mayor and his colleagues on the Council.” Chaudhuri then added, “Instead of failing to show up for half of the council meetings in 2020 while vacationing in Hawaii, and paying a public relations firm to send out his press releases, we hope the councilman simply does his job by showing up to meetings which include matters of importance to the budget. We look forward to his constructive feedback.”
Councilman Phil Cohen also gave hMAG a statement, which reads, “As a member of the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, I look forward to working with Mayor Bhalla’s Administration, including Directors Jason Freeman and Caleb Stratton, as we work on preparing a responsible municipal budget for fiscal year 2020. I wish Director Marks continued success in Kearny, where I am sure Mayor Santos will appreciate his wise counsel and dedicated work ethic.” Regarding DeFusco’s comments, Cohen adds, “I do find it rich that Councilman DeFusco states the day of Director Marks’ announced departure that ‘Director Marks is a professional respected across the state,’ given the lack of respect that I witnessed Councilman DeFusco afford Director Marks during our City Council meetings. I hope that Councilman DeFusco will join me and work constructively and professionally with Director Marks’ successors as we tackle the challenges of the work ahead.”
In a response to the City Spokesman’s comments, Councilman DeFusco’s spokesperson Caitlin Mota told hMAG, “As Councilman DeFusco has already stated, political operatives like Vijay Chaudhuri, the Mayor’s former campaign manager, are using their taxpayer funded jobs in City Hall to attack those whose don’t always agree with the administration.” She adds, “Attempting to smear Councilman DeFusco’s reputation for missing a single Council meeting is irresponsible and his dedication to the First Ward reflects in his actions and service.”
Hoboken’s next City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 5.