Denouncing the “corruption” of Mayor Felix Roque’s administration, the Communication Workers of America endorsed the New Beginnings West New York slate just six days ahead of the local municipal elections.
“What we saw in those eight years [under Gov. Chris Christie] was that there are many elements of New Jersey that supported the worst part of that corruption and Felix Roque was there the entire way supporting that entire agenda and enabling the worst elements of that,” CWA Political Director Scott Hahn said a press conference today.
“Here, in West New York, we have seen the same thing: we have seen people who are just … who are engaging in the political process on their own time and what that means is that they’re punished on the job.”
CWA officials said that their union represents about 250 West New York employees between Town Hall, the housing authority and parking authority, about 200 of which live in town, according to CWA Local 1045 Staff Rep. Jenelle Blackmon.
For those that have been following this very personal contest, the endorsement is pretty academic: back at the February board of commissioners meeting, Blackmon and dozens of Town Hall employees confronted Roque with numerous allegations of political retaliation.
While it was just a small portion of the mayhem that ensued at last month’s commissioners meeting, Blackmon returned and was critical of DPW worker Angel Alfonso being suspended after he tore down Roque campaign signs – though the administration said he was reprimanded for refusing to perform his assigned duties.
When asked about the significance of the support, Rodriguez said his team feels strongly about standing with all members of the union, regardless of where they live or what political candidates they are backing.
“This is America, people have a right to choose, and that does not mean that after they’ve made that choice, that we don’t support them. And that’s exactly what we want to get away from, okay? We want to get away from that culture of an abuse of power,” he stated.
“And more importantly, as it pertains to this administration, that political retaliation and harassment: we will not stand for it, it’s not what America stands for, it’s not what West New York stands for,” later claiming that Roque has cost the town $3.5 million in lawsuit settlements.
Reached over the phone, Roque, also a pain management specialist, wrote off the CWA’s endorsement as much ado about nothing.
“Her representation is like me giving a patient a placebo. It make the opposition feel good, but it doesn’t actually do anything,” he exclaimed, adding that he is happy to have the backing of the West New York Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
He also doubled down on the point that Rodriguez used political tactics to have a campaign supporter targeted and arrested in controversial fashion over the weekend. The commissioner subsequently denied those claims.
When HCV asked Blackmon if there were any one or two instances that encouraged the union to get involved in this election, she pointed back to Alfonso.
“As part of his job, and town ordinance, he was doing his job. As soon as he got to work [the next day], his job assignment was immediately changed. And he had been a supervisor from within DPW for over 15 years doing the same job,” she exclaimed, reiterating that she felt this was a clear cut example of political retaliation.
” … We knew we had to stand up because this was just the latest of many other instances,” Blackmon added.
During an appearance on Hudson County View Live and Uncut last week, Roque was critical of Alfonso again ripping down his campaign signs displayed in a laundromat, particularly since he was participating in his opponent’s campaign while taking time off from work.
Expectedly, Blackmon adamantly disagreed.
“First of all, any American has the right to participate in the political process, period. Secondly, Mr. Alfonso is currently on a leave which we cannot discuss, but it does not deny him the ability to become active politically.”
According to employee attendance records obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, Alfonso plans to use 18 sick days between April 18th and May 12th.
In the same breath, it was brought up that Manny Diaz, a confidential aide to Roque and also a key organizer for his campaign, has been on disability for months, and therefore, the mayor can’t have it both ways.
Based on his attendance records, he has been out on disability from at least March 1st through April 29th (designated with the letters “disb”), with the OPRA response indicating there was no “responsive document” for his May timesheet.
As he did on Thursday, Roque said Diaz is not out on disability, elaborating that he is out family leave.
According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce’s website, it is possible for municipal employees to apply for family leave under certain circumstances that involve caring for a family member in need.
Blackmon declined to comment on Diaz, though said that it “is against the law” for Roque to be making any comments on people’s leaves or work statuses due to HIPAA laws.
16 candidates are seeking five seats on the board of commissioners on Tuesday, where Roque is looking for a third term and Rodriguez is hoping to spoil the party.