Emails reveal turmoil inside West New York Town Hall as Roque tries to expand staff

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Emails from last month reveal increasing turmoil inside West New York Town Hall as Mayor Felix Roque tried to add two new employees to his office. 

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“[The] Mayor has begun the process to hire a confidential secretary, Mr. Henry Marrero. Although Mr. Marrero’s application and hire remain pending, Mr. Marrero took the liberty of assuming certain employee related responsibilities,” Former Town Administrator Jamie Cryan wrote in a December 6th email to Corporation Counsel Michael Jimenez and Labor Counsel George Frino.

Cryan announced late last month that he was leaving his post to take a similar job in Cranford. Sources said that Cryan’s first day in Cranford was Monday.

“Town employees are instructed not to release any Town information or documents to Mr. Marrero without the specific authorization of your Commissioner of the Town Administrator, until such time as his employment is completed through the normal hiring process.”

Cryan, who apologized for the “unnecessary disruptions” at Town Hall on December 5th and 6th, added that releasing any documents to Marrero could “expose the Town to legal liability.”

As only HCV reported, Marrero, a retired North Bergen police lieutenant and former ally of state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, was hired by Roque at an annual salary of $30,000 and his first day of work was December 3rd.

While Marrero and Roque were clearly on the same page, it appears that many others at Town Hall were not, according to emails obtained through an Open Public Records Act request.

While many of the 48 pages are redacted, there is still plenty of information available to paint of picture of what was going on at Town Hall shortly after Roque brought Marrero into the fold.

Just one week later, on December 10th, Roque made it abundantly clear he was in no mood to negotiate or make concessions, emailing a complaint to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office over Marrero’s hiring being held up.

“I am writing to formally register a complaint with regard to an ongoing effort by 3 commissioners and the Town Business Administrator to obstruct the function of the government in the Town of West New York,” Roque wrote to an AG email address assigned to “citizens services.”

” … These individuals are arbitrarily and capriciously obstructing and blocking efforts to hire necessary staff for the two minority commissioners which is seriously impeding the function of our municipal government.”

Roque continued that he attempted to hire James Darley on November 29th at a salary of $45,000 a year. While the email does not indicate what position he would serve as, sources told HCV that he was pegged to be the mayor’s new chief of staff.

In the same email, he also claimed that Cryan avoided meeting with Darley on three separate occasions, adding that he believed Marrero’s hiring was being delayed simply because “politics got in the way.”

Cryan responded on December 12th, indicating that the hiring process had remained largely unchanged during his time as BA, calling on Roque “to take the politics out of public service.”

As Roque did previously, Cryan also noted that the mayor no longer signed off on each new hire: instead the signature of the commissioner in charge of his or her respective department would sign off on any new employee’s coming on board.

The following day, a clearly frustrated Roque emailed Cryan and new Revenue and Finance Commissioner Margarita Guzman inquiring about what was being done about Marrero and Darley.

“Your lack of response is placing the Town in jeopardy by impeding my ability to have the department function properly. Please respond to this email in the next 24 hours,” Roque said, threatening to file a complaint with the state Department of Community Affairs if he continued to be ignored.

Roque and Guzman were moved to different departments at a very contentious board of commissioners meeting in November, where Roque declared war on Guzman, as well as Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo and Gabriel Rodriguez, after months of escalating tensions.

In the most detailed visible email in the chain, Cryan provided a financial analysis for the budget of the the Parks and Public Property Department on December 21st.

Here, his figures indicate Roque has already exceeded that department’s budget by $44,677.

Therefore, although the number is redacted, the two new hires would cause the department to go overbudget by $119,677 (Marrero’s $30,000 salary, plus Darley’s $45,000 salary), according to Cryan’s analysis.

Reached over the phone, Roque hinted that Marrero had found employment elsewhere, but declined to comment further.

“He’s a happy camper,” the mayor said.

Cryan declined to comment, while Marrero would only confirm that he was still not on the West New York Town Hall payroll.

The full email chain obtained can be read here.

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