West New York battle intensifies as Roque files ethics complaint against town attorney

0

With three months to go before the West New York municipal elections, Mayor Felix Roque has filed an ethics complaint against Town Attorney Michael Jimenez, claiming that he is  serving in that role and as acting business administrator simultaneously.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“No local government officer or employee shall undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might be reasonably expected to prejudice his independent judgment in the exercise of his official duties,” Roque wrote in a February 9th letter to the state Department of Community Affairs.

In this instance, he cites NJSA 40A:9-22.5, which lists provisions requiring compliance by a local government officers and employees.

“His refusal to step down is an example of compromised judgment that cannot go unchecked,” Roque also writes, indicating a U.S. Supreme Court Decision on professional ethics supports his stance.

Back in December, Jame Cryan announced he would be leaving his post as West New York municipal administrator for a similar gig in Cranford.

While he is yet to be formally replaced, a resolution approved by the board of commissioners allows Jimenez to perform certain duties given to the municipal administrator on an as needed basis for no additional compensation.

Although he was not named acting business administrator, Roque feels that the line has been blurred enough to create a serious cause for concern.

In the complaint, he also accuses Jimenez of playing politics and “expanding his power”, citing instances where he did not allow Roque, who oversees the Parks and Public Property Department, to hire a new employee and sending a cease and desist letter when a company attempted to do routine repairs that came with no extra costs.

Roque, who announced his re-election slate last week, also took aim at some of his opposition when addressing his gripes with Jimenez.

“As the Mayor of this great municipality it is my duty to make sure that all the laws and
regulations are followed,” the mayor said in a statement.

“I am appalled at not only the illegal conduct of Mr. Jimenez, but also at the fact that Commissioners Rodriguez, Cirillo and Guzman have failed to take action.”

In a joint statement, the three aforementioned commissioners runnings on the New Beginnings West New York slate said that the complaint filed by Roque was misleading and “baseless.”

“Michael Jimenez is in no way acting as both our Town Attorney and Town Administrator. While he has stepped up in aiding in the daily functions of the administration, this is with no change in salary, title, and most importantly, without increasing the burden to our taxpayers,” they said.

“This is a baseless charge that shows a complete disregard on behalf of Mayor Roque, and shines light on how far he is willing to go to play political games at the expense of West New York residents and dedicated municipal employees.”

Gabriel Rodriguez is heading the New Beginning West New York slate, which also features Cosmo Cirillo and Margarita Guzman, who are joined by first time candidates Victor Barrera and Yoleisy Yanez.

The West New York municipal elections, which will determine the next mayor, will take place on May 14th.

A copy of Roque’s complaint, which he has also forwarded to the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics, can be read here.

 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with a joint statement from Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo, Gabriel Rodriguez and Margarita Guzman.