A lawyer has filed a complaint alleging that West New York Mayor Felix Roque’s ex-chief of staff Jonathan Castaneda, also head of the local Democratic committee, “misled signers” of petitions of nomination filed by Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Please accept this letter as on objection on the behalf of those candidates to the petitions for West New York Democratic Municipal Committee filed by Cosmo Cirillo on behalf of all candidates using the slogan of slogan Hudson County Democratic Organization,” attorney Stephen Edelstein wrote to Town Clerk Carmela Riccie in a letter earlier today.
“The basis for this objection is that the petitions to which we object were circulated without candidate names, which were added later, after the nominating petitions were obtained. In addition, the circulator of the petitions, Mr. Jonathan Castaneda, misled signers into believing that the petitions were for a different office.”
Mayor Felix Roque, who would likely be running his Democratic committee candidates off the line as of today, told Hudson County View that he hired Edelstein – former corporation counsel for the West New York Board of Education – to file the complaint.
“Democrats for West New York hired Edelstein after numerous complaints from committeemen and women who asked to remove their names from the ballot after their petitions were obtained by a third party without their consent,” Roque said.
“I stand by Jonathan knowing that I nurtured him, I think he’s got a future in politics, a bright individual, but I’m going to let the lawyers and the judge sort it out.”
In response, Castaneda said the complaint had “no merit,” which the affidavits make clear.
“There is no merit to the complaint filed against me concerning the accuracy of our petitions. I have received a legal opinion that our petitions will prove to be valid. It is unfortunate that the level of intensity concerning this county political dispute has resulted in my reputation coming under attack,” he said.
“People know my reputation and know that I would never mislead the members of our community. As the affidavits show, these petitions were collected before anyone knew there would be a political fight in the county. We were a team, and no one had any reason to do anything improper. I am confident that in the final analysis, these accusations will be disproven.”
Cirillo also weighed in, noting that he filed on behalf of a number of Hudson Dems and echoed the sentiment that they were filled out and submitted properly.
“The petitions I submitted were on behalf of myself, Commissioner Margarita Guzman and Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez for the Hudson County Democratic Organization with the full support of Congressman Albio Sires, State Senator Nicholas Sacco, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise, and Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez,” he began.
“We are confident they will be verified to be proven correct. We will take whatever legal action is necessary to protect the rights of our county committee candidates and constituents. These political disputes should never result in attacks on people’s credibility and character. We should all be working together for the betterment of West New York.”
Earlier this week, Castaneda, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) confirmed that he had resigned as Roque’s chief of staff and was in the final stages of taking a job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Castaneda was in a particularly precarious situation given that he worked in Roque’s office and Sires recently declared that he planned an ousting the fellow Cuban-born incumbent: friction that started from the HCDO civil war over next year’s county executive race.
Roque was quick to join Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack in calling to replace Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, while Sires wasted little time to back DeGise’s re-election campaign.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comments from Jonathan Castaneda and Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.