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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

The committee naturally was curious about the sources of all this cash money, but Mayor Hague `declined to an swer.' The committee then brought him before the whole legislature, where he still declined to answer. He said that the questions were personal and beyond the right of legislative inquiry; he was arrested for contempt, but he immediately applied to Vice-Chancellor John J. Fallon, former Hudson County assemblyman and county counsel, who granted a writ of habeas corpus on the ground that the legislature was usurping a judicial function in asking questions that were designed to show a criminal conspiracy. The state appealed to the Court of Errors and Appeals, which, by dividing evenly six to six, upheld the vice-chancellor. (In re Hague, 9 N.J. Misc. W); 123 -.J. Eq. 475; 143 Atlan. 836.) Mayor Hague said in a public statement: `I am very much pleased and satisfied with the decision. It is exactly what I expected.'

The decision cut the ground from under the Case Committee; they were never able to explain the Mayor's great affluence. But before the decision was handed down they had discovered that the public funds in Jersey City had been used in many curious ways. For example:

The Journal Square improvement in Jersey City was made at a total cost of $3,162,021.42; the construction work cost $1,643,574.87, of which Stillman, Delehanty, Ferris, and Company, the principal contractor, received $1,409,392.76.

The president of the Stillman, Delehanty, Ferris Company was John J. Ferris, President of the Board of Education of Jersey City, having been appointed a member of the board by Mayor Frank Hague; and William R. Delehanty was the treasurer. Mr. Ferris died while the work was in progress.

There was submitted in evidence three pocket diaries which had been kept by John J. Ferris, and a memorandum writing in lead pencil of which the following is a copy:

Boulevard Bridge
Hague and Freeholders 200,000
O'Marra 10,000
Mitchell 50,000
Changed by H. and Cohen 3/13/24 to 15,000 from 25,000
Radigan 5,000
Total 290,000

Elbridge W. Stein, a handwriting expert, testified that the writer of the diaries was the writer of the memorandum, from which the Committee concluded that John J. Ferris was the writer of the memorandum.... Frank Hague was examined as to his connection with the transaction, his name appearing on the Ferris memorandum. He showed that after the introduction of the Ferris memorandum he sent to Mr. Stein for his expert opinion a letter bearing a forged signature, John J. Ferrigno, and a part of an authentic signature made by John J. Ferris, to wit, `John J. Ferri.' Mr. Stein was asked whether, in his opinion, the writer of the forged signature `John J. Ferrigno' also was the writer of the standard `John J. Ferri.' Mr. Stein gave it as his opinion that the same person wrote both signatures, in which he was mistaken if Mr. Hague's statement of the fact is correct. Mr. Hague asserted that the memorandum was the fabrication of the former chairman of this committee [Clarence E. Case] and its counsel, and denounced them as frauds. (Report, Senate Journal (1929), pp. 1138-1140.)

The Mayor was always very proud of his ingenuity in thus confounding the handwriting expert, and in the municipal campaign of 1929 he used the story to show how he had 'exposed' the Case Committee as a partisan fraud. The committee, however, sought to establish the authenticity of the memorandum collaterally:
Counsel for the Committee informed the Committee that the memorandum had been given to him by William R. Delehanty, former treasurer of the Stillman, Delehanty, Ferris Company, whose business address is 1819 Broadway, New York City.1 The committee was unable to procure the attendance before it of the officers of the company, who carefully remained in New York. (Report, Senate Journal (1929))


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