Gene Scanlon knew Jersey City politics. He once was the political reporter for the Jersey Journal. He had worked as an aide to Mayor Thomas Gangemi at any rate, until the Feds got wind of the fact that Gangemi wasn’t a citizen.
It was the late 60s; now Whelan was Mayor of Jersey City. Gene Scanlon held no illusions concerning Whelan’s ethics, or absence of the same. Everybody knew that Whelan served on behalf of Hudson County Boss John V. Kenny. As a reporter, Scanlon had written of Kenny’s crooked deals. But even as sophisticated an observer as Gene was in for a surprise. He was soon to learn of the massive spread of corruption’s cancerous growth.
Scanlon was proud of his Irish heritage. Gene was the founder of Jersey City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and every few years organized a group trip to Ireland.
Several elderly priests (who had come from Ireland many years before) dearly wished to join the tour, but never were able to afford it. These priests long had tended their parishes in a manner approaching sainthood. Gene Scanlon had a premonition that if the priests did not see Ireland this time around, there never would be another opportunity for them.
But how to get the money?
A brilliant thought came to Gene. In the upside down morality of Jersey City, where on every street corner some gambler had a shop (as long as the appropriate blessing went to the local precinct), churches were not allowed to provide “games of chance” at carnivals. To stretch the situation to the surreal, it actually was not against the law for charities to organize these activities. The technicality was that a permit was required; the municipality would accept the application, but never issue the permit. If City Hall might make an exception in just this one instance, a circumstance and a cause that nobody would criticize, the parishes could easily raise the funds!
Gene Scanlon requested a personal appointment with Mayor Whelan. Gene extolled the many virtues of the clergymen, proving many times over that they well deserved to be the first cases of declared saints before death. Scanlon shared his foreboding that this would be the last chance for the elderly priests to see the land of their birth. Gene explained how the men had practiced the vow of poverty by devoting their lives to the poor of Jersey City.
At this point Gene Scanlon paused and looked up at Mayor Whelan. Gene had each move figured out like in a game of chess. He expected Whelan to ask what he could do. Then Gene’s brainstorm move of the carney permits might appear on the board.
Even though Whelan might be a master at a game or two, Gene now would discover that it wasn’t chess that the Mayor played.
“Well Gene, how much money are we talking about here?”
For a moment Gene was speachless which indicated a shock the extent of which would have landed an ordinary man in the hospital. Scanlon was wondering why Whelan wanted to know the cost of the trip, but he kept that to himself.
“Mayor, I think that a thousand dollars would cover it.”
Mayor Whelan reached down and pulled open one of his desk’s deep drawers. It was filled with many stacks of one hundred dollar bills. The mayor took a pair of the bundles out from the pile. For a few seconds, Whelan fanned through and scrutinized each of the collections of bills, seemingly verifying the denominations and the count.
Handing the cash over to Gene Scanlon, Mayor Whelan said, “Here’s two. . . I wouldn’t want them running short over there.”