Haytham Younes, city council at-large candidate, repeatedly hurled criticism at Michael Jackson, another candidate, for defaulting on a Paterson Restoration Corporation loan, during a candidate forum held inside the city council chamber on Tuesday evening.
“Mr. Jackson you are an expert in business, and I think you’re an expert in Chapter 11 bankruptcy because you filed for bankruptcy after receiving $140,000 from the city as a loan,” swiped Younes. “The city has no money and can’t balance the budget [are] you going to file for bankruptcy for the city?”
Jackson responded to Younes mentioning the business climate in 2010, the year he defaulted on the loan. “Just understand the business climate,” said Jackson, “we experienced the worst economy since the great depression.”
Jackson, who owns Jacksonville Restaurant on Grand Street, borrowed a $140,000 from the Paterson Restoration Corporation, the city’s loan arm. He received the funds in January 2010; his first payment for the loan came due in February; in March he began missing payments, defaulting on the loan.
He was not hiding the bankruptcy, said Jackson, who stated that he had mentioned his business was going through re-organization in a magazine article featuring his restaurant. “This isn’t something I made an effort to hide,” said Jackson. “I spoke directly about the bankruptcy through the wording of re-organizing which is a bankruptcy term.”
The article about Jackson in the Black Enterprise Magazine specifically mentions the rigor and discipline with which he handles his money. A digital copy of the magazine article found by a reporter does not mention Jackson’s financial woes.
Younes remained consistent with his attacks. “How come, someone after two months spent $140,000, what about the budget? He’s going to spend it in two to three months and we’re going to file bankruptcy for our city,” said Younes. “I’m a clean person, I don’t like to commit any fraud.”
Following Younes’ comment Jackson froze for a moment pausing before continuing his round of the questioning. The city clerk’s candidate forum allowed candidates to direct questions at each other. Each candidate was allowed two rounds of questioning.
Jackson defended himself several times justifying the default. Jackson said during the Great Recession a number of businesses went belly up. “The $140,000 was not city taxpayer money,” rejoined Jackson at one point in the forum.
The corporation that issued the loan is a non-profit organization established with a federal grant that was issued to the city about three decades ago, according to Jamie Dykes, who was chairman of the corporation at the time.
Although the dollars that went into the loan were not directly from local taxpayers, it was indeed taxpayer money that was extracted from individuals — including city residents — living in the United States via the federal income tax.
Loans issued by the corporation are voted on by council members.
With all eight council at-large candidates in attendance, Younes asked Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, whether Jackson should be told to step out of the race.
“If there is a candidate, he’s running for council, and he commit fraud, you should tell him to step out of the race or continue this race?” asked Younes.
Faced with an awkwardly weird question, McDaniel said, “I appreciate the question; however, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to tell people whether to run or not.”
Throughout the forum Younes continuously attacked Jackson over the loan default.
The city clerk’s mayoral candidates forum begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (tonight).