West New York Town Commissioner Count Wiley has filed a lawsuit against his political opponent, Mayor Felix Roque, accusing the mayor of defamation for comments Roque made during an April town meeting.
The two have been at odds for over a year, ever since Roque was indicted for allegedly hacking into a different political rival’s “Recall Roque” website. After the federal indictment, Wiley, who was an ally of Roque, turned against the mayor and has launched a recall effort to replace him. Roque has not yet stepped down.
But Wiley has been accused of his own ethical lapses in town, such as allegedly allowing North Bergen public works employees to paint his West New York office on North Bergen town time. (Wiley has argued that the two towns had an informal “shared services” agreement).
The lawsuit was filed in Hudson County Superior Court on May 22.
At an April town meeting, Roque made statements about Wiley that Wiley considered defamatory. The statements referred to an agreement that Wiley, as part-time commissioner of the Department of Public Works (DPW), had encouraged the town to enter in 2012 with a waste disposal company.
Wiley, in reviewing the DPW’s operations and procedures, believed that another waste removal company could save the taxpayers of West New York more money than the existing one, the suit says.
Trash talk all around in West New York.
The suit alleges that Roque opposed Wiley's agreement with the second garbage company because "Garbage Company 1" was a political supporter of the mayor. Wiley alleges that Roque orchestrated numerous acts of payback against himself and his staff.
In West New York’s form of government, five commissioners run for office, and one of those is chosen as mayor. All of the positions are paid and part-time. Each commissioner gets a department to help run.
Lesser of two
The suit says Wiley's suspicions about "Garbage Company 1" were never properly looked into, and instead, Roque’s town attorney, Gil Garcia, hired an outside firm to investigate Wiley for the "primary purpose of intimidating him from continuing to report wrongdoing," the suit says.
Wiley’s charges are not the first time someone accused Roque of orchestrating political payback. The state recently released a report saying that Roque allegedly had school district employees promoted or demoted depending on their political allegiance to him.
Wiley says in the lawsuit that as soon as he learned the agreement with contract with "Garbage Company 2" was inappropriate because they still had a working contract with the other company, he instructed Munoz to close the account, but in an June 25, 2012 email included in the suit as an exhibit, Munoz says Garcia told him not to mail the letter that would have closed the account.
Wiley's attorney, Louis Zayas, said the exhibits included in the suit clearly show that Wiley went into the agreement with Garbage Company 2 with the full knowledge of city officials, and also that he was acting in good faith and tried to close the account. Zayas said the account was left open in order to rack up a bigger bill in order to make Wiley look bad.
Therefore, according to Wiley, Roque’s alleged public statements in April accusing him of wrongdoing in connection with the garbage contracts are false.
Meanwhile, the trial date for Roque’s hacking charge is set for July 23.
Christian Diaz may be reached at ChristianD@hudsonreporter.com.