Richard Rivera, a former West New York police officer, municipal liabilities consultant, and most recently the head of a civil rights protection project at the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, will be appointed a special aide to Mayor Felix Roque in the coming months, Roque confirmed this week. Rivera has been serving on a volunteer basis since Hurricane Sandy, and will continue to do so until his position and salary can be confirmed by the town’s Board of Commissioners.
“I’m going to be the mayor’s eyes and ears in City Hall and around town,” Rivera said. “Our agendas align, we both want what is best for West New York, and I have a specific skill set that allows me to lend myself to that agenda.”
Additionally, the board confirmed the appointment of former assistant town attorney and Bernardsville Councilman Joseph DeMarco as the town’s newest municipal administrator. DeMarco served as assistant town attorney since the beginning of Roque’s administration, but said that his skills allow him to do more than interpret the law on the town’s behalf.
“My experience is such that I’ve worked for many municipalities in a legal sense, both representing them and defending them.” said DeMarco. “But I’ve also worked inside government, and that gives me perspective on why people want things done, and how I can help them achieve that.”
“[Rivera] is going to be my eyes on the battlefield.” – Mayor Felix Roque
“I’m aware of their goals and how they do their jobs,” he said. “My job is going to be helping them to work together to improve the quality of life in West New York while remaining fiscally responsible.”
Roque praises both men
“Rich Rivera has a passion for his work, and his roots are in West New York. He’s going to be my eyes on the battlefield,” he said. “And Joe DeMarco is a workhorse. He’s a thinker, a planner and a doer.”
“Both men are well-spoken, honest and full of integrity,” he added. “We’re going to bring West New York into a new generation.”
Rivera will be most useful to Roque in the coming months, when Roque will begin to focus on his upcoming showdown in federal court, defending himself against charges of cyber crimes.
“The trial is obviously going to be time consuming, and he needs to devote some time to that, but my role will not change,” said Rivera. “I will delegate with his authority but not with his responsibility.”
“The mayor’s position in West New York is already part-time,” he added, “but I will be full time.
Some of Roque’s political opponents, mainly Freeholder Jose Munoz, have spoken out against Rivera’s appointment, saying the mayor is simply trying to buy off any opposition he may face in a possible recall election.
“I don’t have a problem with Rich Rivera,” said Munoz, “but I find it coincidental that he would get a job so close to the mayor when he so recently had said he was interested in the job himself. How many other people are going to say they want to run now, just to get jobs?”
Rivera denied he ever had any interest in the mayor’s position, and said no record of him saying so exists.
“Right now I’m volunteering, so how could that mean that the mayor is buying me off? I can’t be bought,” Rivera said. “Everything I’ve gotten, I’ve earned on my own. I’m not beholden to someone else, like some elected officials who are willing to take the crumbs from the master’s table.”
Asked to clarify this comment, Rivera said it was a reference to party politics.
“The mayor is trying to do good things for this town, and he’s met with a lot of resistance. I’m going to try and help with that. I’m going to be his eyes and ears.”
It seems he already is. With Roque absent from Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Rivera sat quietly in the last row of the municipal courtroom, not publicly criticizing Roque’s opponents (which he did at last month’s meeting), but simply watching and listening.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org