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He’s In!: Arguments Heard on Both Sides

Kenneth Gonzalez to Fulfill Unexpired Term for Judge

David Caba

David Caba

PERTH AMBOY – 11/24/14 Council Meeting (Regular Portion) R-583 – Consenting to the appointment of Kenneth L. Gonzalez as a Judge of the Municipal Court of the City of Perth Amboy to fill the unexpired term of Municipal Court Judge Maria del Valle-Koch, commencing December 12, 2014.

When it came to talk about Agenda items, Residents Stanley Sierakowski, Alan Silber, David Caba, Kenneth Ballot and Reinaldo Aviles all had comments to make about this appointment.

Stanley Sierakowski addressed his comments to the City Attorney, Mark Blunda. “You were investigating whether or not Kenneth Gonzalez had a conflict of interest when he was representing clients in the First Time Home-buyers program. It should have been sent to the Ethics Committee of the Bar Association in Middlesex County to render a decision in that matter.”

Silber said, “This is fraud. Gonzalez had used a handicapped placard that he knew he should have turned in. He just waited it out (until the stature of limitation was over).”  Silber continued, “Another resident (Cathy DePow) sent out an email on 6/21/14 about a deal making Gonzalez a judge. DePow hosted a fundraiser when this email went out.” Silber wanted to know who put this resolution on the agenda. He noted that the Mayor made a $4000 donation to each of the Perth Amboy United Candidates. Silber continued by saying, “A judge has to make judgement calls and be discrete.” He recalled that Kenneth Gonzalez was

City Attorney Mark Blunda

City Attorney
Mark Blunda

on the Board of Education with money launderers and straw donors.”

Earlier in the day, during the Caucus section of the meeting, Silber had grilled Gonzalez about when he was approached being appointed a judge: “If it was before or after you (Gonzalez) decided not to run for reelection?”

After Gonzalez had said, “I can’t remember.”

Silber continued, “These are not hard questions. Why did you decide not to run for reelection? I think you (the Council Members) should be asking these questions – but you won’t! Gonzalez was on the Board of Ed when $2 million was stolen. He didn’t know people that he sat with on the Board of Education were straw donors.”

Resident David Caba chimed in, “People break the law and are rewarded. Gonzalez used a deceased relative’s handicapped placard. Will he recuse himself from similar cases? Now they want to reward you with a judgeship when you broke the law? You (Gonzalez) should not judge any cases. You should know better. You are a lawyer. You made a deal. Two years from now it will backfire!”

Kenneth Ballot questioned why no female lawyers were eligible for the judgeship position. “Councilman Gonzalez wanted to get rid of one of the Municipal Clerks. During the League of Municipalities, those attending were going to parties of contractors who have bid on City projects.”

Councilman  Kenneth Gonzalez

Kenneth Gonzalez

Resident Reinaldo Aviles took the middle of the road approach. He stated, “Councilman Kenneth Gonzalez served with people on the Board of Education who were Straw Donors. But he (Gonzalez) was not one himself. Some of the people who spoke tonight supported a ticket that had a Straw Donor on it. If you (the Council) have a doubt about what was said about Kenneth Gonzalez, you should vote “No” on the resolution. If Kenneth Gonzalez can help balance out some of the Court inadequacies, then appoint him. The issue of Kenneth Gonzalez wanting to get rid of a Court Clerk had to do with her not getting a residency here.”

Attorney Mark Blunda addressed the issues raised about Kenneth Gonzalez’ role in the First Time Home-buyers Program and the misuse of the handicapped placard. “I went to Judge Francis. As far as the handicapped placard, it is a DMV statute and the Municipal Body is not responsible. Judge Koch was appointed to Superior Court. Mayor Diaz  approached me about Kenny Gonzalez being appointed to fulfill the unexpired term. I went to see Judge Francis and presented him with the information about the handicapped placard and the First Time Home-buyers Program. On Judge Francis’ advice, I went to the New Jersey Supreme Court to ask them about any conflict of interest if  Kenny Gonzalez was involved in helping out clients in the First Time Homebuyers Program.” Blunda ended by saying, “In my 38 years in practice, must judges are involved in politics.”

Months of speculation came to fruition when the resolution was approved unanimously by the Council with an abstention by Councilman Kenneth Gonzalez.

After the appointment was made, some of the same speakers addressed the Council again.

Sierakowski said, “There was never an investigation into the Gonzalez allegations (First Time Home-buyers Program). Benyola (Human Resources) steered clients to Gonzalez for the First Time Home-buyers Program. Judge Francis has no subpoena power. The investigation should have been initiated by the Ethics Committee. Judge Francis had no authority.”

Kenneth Balut said, “I didn’t hear any of you call for an investigation of a judge and the municipal court now. That is disrespecting the public. Everything is taped in the courtroom.”

During the Council comments, Councilwoman Lisa Nanton said, “I’ve never heard Kenneth Gonzalez hold a grudge against anyone. I also served with him on the Board of Education.”

When it came time for Councilman Gonzalez to make a statement, he commented about the recent election. “When you have a good team working in your City, it’s best to keep them. We welcome people who bring constructive criticism, but we want you to join  us. You can’t get anything accomplished if you alienate your state legislatures. I want to thank the Council for appointing me to the judgeship. I have studied law for 19 years. It’s important to have civility. We’re you neighbors. It’s not necessary to scream. We want to help. I want to thank the Mayor for my appointment and Mark Blunda for doing the legal research. I violated a DMV condition. It went before the Woodbridge Municipal Court and it was dismissed. As far as the First Time Home-buyers, where I was involved, I was also cleared in that case.”

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