Lawyer: Roque’s ex-chief of staff ‘misled signers’ of Cirillo’s WNY Dem Committee petitions


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. 

Jonathan Castaneda, West New York Mayor Felix Roque’s former chief of staff, getting sworn in as a board of education trustee on January 6th, 2016.

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. 

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  1. “Knowing that i nurtured him,” says it ALL.

    When the results were in Rogues favor, like in several previous elections, it was acceptable.

    Buckle up cowboys and girls, there’s gonna be a showdown.

  2. It is a shame that West New York has become caught in the middle of County Politics. While Senator and Union City Mayor Stack probably works harder for his constituents than any politician in NJ, his judgment, in as far as his public endorsement of Governor Christie’s two terms, must definitely be considered. Read The Jersey Sting by Sherman and Margolis about operation Bid Rig 3. Then U.S. Attorney Christie has Stack in his cross hairs, thanks to multi million dollar check kiting fraudster Solomon Dwek, who appears to have made at least one attempt to get Stack to accept thousands of dollars in exchange to have his development proposal approved, all to reduce his own jail time. Instead of standing up to Christie, it appears Stack accepted Christie’s ‘protection’ from possible prosecution in the matter, in exchange for his political support. Mr. Stack must come clean about this before ANY DEMOCRAT IN HUDSON COUNTY allows him to be the next County Executive, leader of HCDO, or, a future Congressman. Mayor Roque: you are our Mayor, and you have done good, especially in your current term. However, as you found out at last Commissioner meeting, you only have one vote. You should have discussed your thoughts about Mr. DeGise with your fellow Commissioners before unilaterally casting your lot with Stack, Fulop, etc. It is funny how you enjoyed being on the HCDO line for many years, but now that it looks like your actions have caused you to lose the support of HCDO, you seek an attorney to deprive your political adversaries (that your own unilateral action helped create) their legitimacy. It is sad that you did not learn from the legitimate consequences you incurred on yourself when you bucked endorsing a good man, Senator Menendez, for reelection, instead backing a Republican. Again, your unwise politics threatens the Unity that Our Good Senator Menendez NEEDS FROM HIS MOST RELIABLE DEMOCRATIC COUNTY BASE to win reelection. Christie WREAKED HAVOC on our infrastructure, debt, public pensions of our West New York Policemen , Firemen, and Teachers, and Stack helped Christie do this by endorsing him. Your initial backing Krylmios over Senator Menendez could have done real harm to our most vulnerable has Menendez lost. And now, your ill-advised fanning of a civil war fire in Hudson County JEPARDIZES Senator Menendez again, as well as our most vulnerable in West New York, Hudson County, New Jersey, and our United States, as our Good Senator Menendez as more decency, compassion, and BETTER INTENTIONS for our People than ANY Republican will ever have.

  3. I agree with you 100% Roque’s first endorsement after he became Mayor was to endorse a republican running against Senator Menendez who has served the people of Hudson County and the State of NJ . This was an unforgivable act because Senator Menendez has served NJ well. Roque does not know the meaning of loyalty, and has so much baggage with his law suit settlements and appointments of criminals in high paying jobs so at this point he is getting exactly what he deserves and it’s long overdue.