Hudson County Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Bariso ruled against West New York Mayor Felix Roque in the ongoing power struggle for the 58 local Democratic committee seats.
“I think the question is was there a substantial, credible evidence in the record that supports [West New York Town Clerk] Ms. Riccie’s decision,” Bariso explained in his ruling.
“And that is a tough standard to overturn and this court is not convinced that by voiding the deposition or voiding the deposition of Mr. Castaneda and that in it of itself should lead this court to upset a lengthy opinion which sets forth sufficient facts, in this court’s opinion, to support that decision.”
Earlier this month, Roque challenged petitions for nomination submitted on behalf of the Hudson County Democratic Organization by Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
However, Riccie denied the challenge after three committee members testified that they knew what they were signing – despite claims to the contrary.
Castaneda, Roque’s former chief of staff and the head of the WNYDC, did not testify, prompting attorney Stephen Edelstein – representing Roque – filed an appeal that sought to have him testify in court.
However, Bariso didn’t find that to be necessary after Riccie’s findings, also taking exception of the fact that the 58 committee members had not been given notice to appear, also questioning why it took two months to find a problem with certain signatures.
Steve Kleinman, who was representing the HCDO, maintained that Riccie’s ruling had been sufficient and that she could’ve sought relief from the court if she felt she was unable to make a determination without Castaneda’s testimony.
After the hearing concluded, Edelstein said that while the superior court matter is closed, Roque has the option of appealing to the Supreme Court, though he was unsure what that decision will be in the immediate aftermath of Bariso’s decision.
In a statement released moments ago, Kleinman said Roque owes the candidates that will be running on the HCDO line “a massive groveling apology.”
“Mayor Felix Roque and everyone behind this owe a massive groveling apology to the 58 Democratic County Committee candidates they wrongfully tried to remove from the ballot.”
In a joint statement, Cirillo, along with fellow Commissioners Gabriel Rodriguez and Margarita Guzman, took a more reserved approach to celebrate the court victory.
“We’re happy to see the court act to protect the right of West New York residents to choose their local representatives on the Democratic county committee,” they said.
“Our slate of candidates are all dedicated community leaders and we look forward to helping them be elected in June to fulfill their goal of moving West New York in a positive new direction.”