An attorney representing West New York Health Department Director Gina Miranda-Diaz threatened to sue three commissioners at last night’s meeting if they continue to push forward with a shared services agreement with North Bergen.
“The same way that I did with the public works department, I wanted to review the health department back in May, for the last four-plus weeks, analyzing the department, you were all sent reports: hopefully you read them, they were fairly easy reads,” began Revenue and Finance Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez.
“And obviously the resolution speaks for itself, where we just want to continue to do work for the residents of West New York in the best way possible, and more importantly, within a frugal budget.”
As only Hudson County View has reported, the WNY commissioners approved a measure to create a health department committee last month, in what many viewed as a pre-emptive strike against Diaz, the wife of Mayor Felix Roque’s top aide, Manny Diaz.
In the final of several add-on resolutions introduced last night, Rodriguez introduced local legislation allowing “the Town Administrator to negotiate and enter into a shared services agreement with the Township of North Bergen consistent with their proposal [for] Health Department Services.”
If terms can be reached, the agreement would “restructure” the West New York Health Department and allow North Bergen to provide shared services at $15,000 quarterly or $60,000 annually.
Miranda-Diaz currently earns an annual salary of $172,647.45, according to public records.
Roque is currently in the midst of bitter political fist fight with state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco over next year’s county executive race, which has been punctuated by Roque backing Larry Wainstein to succeed Sacco as mayor.
Needless to say, the West New York mayor was less than thrilled with the resolution introduced in the 11th hour.
” … You’re saying to me that you’re trying to save taxpayers money by having a shared service with North Bergen, correct?,” Roque asked Rodriguez.
“Correct. What the resolution does is opens the opportunity to explore shared services, opens up the door to for the process to explores shared services,” the commissioner responded.
“Did you know that we had a shared service with North Bergen and it didn’t work before? Where the lady, I believe, Mrs. Castro it was, she never showed up for a year,” Roque alleged.
“I don’t know that it didn’t work,” Rodriguez answered.
“Okay, well please do your homework then get back to me,” Roque sniped back.
Louis Zayas, who has cost the Roque administration millions of dollars in settling political retaliation lawsuits, warned Rodriguez, as well as Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo and Margarita Guzman, they were traveling down a slippery slope and could be sued individually.
“What’s going on here is that the commissioners who are infighting with Mayor Roque and Sure Colacurcio are targeting an employee of West New York for political retaliation due to her political affiliation with Roque,” Zayas said during the public portion of the meeting.
“This study, which is prepared by a very good law firm, won’t shield the city, or you guys, from liability because it’s clear that the budget concerns and shared services is motivated by politics. Because once the infighting between the commissioners and the mayor and Colacurcio started, that’s when the target of Ms. Diaz took place.”
Cirillo, who exhibited obvious friction with the mayor throughout the meeting, later said that he believes the numbers don’t lie and that shared services have saved the town money in the past.
“The Town of West New York has historically had shared services agreements with partners, and as a result of those shared services agreements, was $155,000 – based on my review of the report that was done – that was brought into this town as a result,” he said.
“After that, we’re at $28,000 today. That’s a significant reduction in the money that was brought in as a result of those shared service agreements.”
The resolution regarding the potential shared services agreement with North Bergen passed by a vote of 3-2, with Roque and Colacurcio voting no.