The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) published a report last week alleging “potential ethics violations and the abuse of office” on the part of West New York Mayor Felix Roque and other elected officials, mainly concerning the school district’s hiring practices and the alleged solicitation of political contributions on school grounds.
The report also charged that the solicitation of contributions on school grounds is a traditional practice in that town, but has become worse under Roque’s nearly two years in office.
The report, according to OFAC Director Robert Cicchino, was forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General and to the Division of Community Affairs, along with suggestions that Roque and others have potentially violated the state’s School Ethics Act.
According to the report, “the review was initiated based on concerns that some employment decisions were based on political allegiance and a school district employee’s willingness to make campaign contributions to municipal officials.”
Some of the contributions, including $2,000 tickets to one of Roque’s fundraising events, were made under duress, the report alleges.
“The fact that I beat them and won by a landslide victory must have pissed them off very much.” – Mayor Felix Roque
Amidst the allegations are details regarding a “hit list” that allegedly came from Roque, detailing employees within the school district that the mayor wanted terminated.
Roque, reached on the phone on Thursday, accused the former Vega administration of sending state offices after him, and denied any wrongdoing.
“All I have to say is that the old political corrupted machine has been trying to use the arm of the law to eliminate me from the beginning,” he said. “The fact that I beat them and won by a landslide victory must have pissed them off very much.”
Roque is already under indictment on federal hacking charges from May, when he and his son, Joseph, were arrested for allegedly hacking into a website advocating for his removal from office.
Commissioner Count Wiley, who is currently attempting to organize a recall election against Roque, said that he was not surprised by the contents of the report. According to him, “it’s the type of thing that we see happen in town hall all the time that the public might not know is happening.”
“Of course, this is illegal activity, something that politicians of any kind should never be doing,” said Wiley. “If you do a good job and you please the people, you’ll never need to ask people to buy tickets [to fundraisers], they’ll want to support you.”
The report is dated April 19, but pursuant to New Jersey law, it was published on the district’s website Thursday.
The report said that “Under [Roque], the amount of contribution solicited from school employees and the method of solicitation raised a new level of concern.”
Roque said that until he reads the full report, he will continue to work for the betterment of the town.
“I will not subject myself to any of their political subjugations,” he said. “They will try their best to knock me down, but my goal is to govern and make this town better, and I’ve done a great job of that so far.”