WEST NEW YORK AND BEYOND – West New York resident and town employee David Rivera was given a notice of disciplinary action Tuesday morning, and the disciplinary action cited was "suspension with the intention of termination," the notice said. It was signed by Town Attorney Gilberto Garcia and Commissioner of Public Safety Caridad Rodriguez.
West New York's politics have been in turmoil ever since Mayor Felix Roque was arrested in connection with computer hacking two months ago. Roque has not resigned, but rumors have swirled about other public officials who may want his job.
The reasons stated in the notice for Rivera's intended termination were that Rivera allegedly "engaged in insubordination of your supervisors within the premises of Town Hall during work hours by engaging in press interviews after being advised to perform your duties," among other allegations. The press has to do with the fact that Rivera spent his lunch break on Monday engaging in an interview for Hudson County TV, Rivera said Tuesday.
Rodriguez did not return a phone call by press time. Garcia declined to comment on personnel matters.
Rivera initially worked as the event coordinator for the town's Recreation Department, headed by Commissioner FiorD'Aliza Frias, but was transferred on June 22 to the police records department after receiving a civil service complaint letter from assistant town attorney Joe DeMarco on Frias' behalf.
The new letter about the disciplinary action came two days after Rivera was involved in a police incident that took place on Sunday, July 29 while he was attending a public town event at Donnelly Park on Boulevard East called "Sunset Sundays" where food and music are provided.
Rivera began handing out business cards belonging to Commissioner Count Wiley (who was not at the event), who has declared his intention to run a recall election against Mayor Roque.
Rivera told the Reporter on Tuesday that he was informing those who were attending the event about Wiley's intention to run for mayor. Then, Rivera claims, things heated up. Frias used a microphone that was being used by musicians who were playing at the event to tell Rivera to leave the premises or she would call the police, Rivera claims.
As Rivera didn't believe he was doing anything illegal, he continued to hand out cards, and then remained at the event “talking to the people I've come to know while working for the town,” he said.
According to a police report dated that Sunday, officers responded to a call complaining that Rivera was handing out political flyers. The report does not state who placed the call.
The report also states that when questioned by the police, Rivera said he was handing out Wiley's business cards.
Rivera said that at some point, he was physically attacked for handing out the cards. Rivera declined to disclose the identity of his alleged attackers.
“As I was leaving the park, three male members of the Recreation Department told me that what I was doing was wrong and that if I didn't leave, they'd take me out,” Rivera said Tuesday. He said that he began to laugh, because he felt he wasn't doing anything wrong. “This is a public event, and as long as I'm not obstructing the peace or soliciting anyone, I'm not doing anything wrong.”
Rivera went on to state that one man allegedly grabbed his shirt and threw him on the ground while another one allegedly grabbed a metal folding chair and threatened to strike Rivera with it if he didn't leave.
The police report claims that Rivera had allegedly been intoxicated and had allegedly badmouthed the wife of one of the employees, and the employee had verbally defended his wife but not harmed Rivera. The report also states that one witness came forward and allegedly stated that Rivera had in fact been attacked, after which Rivera left the premises.
Frias referred comment to the town's Legal Department, who then referred comment to the town spokesman Pablo Fonseca.
“It's a personnel matter so the administration has no comment,” Fonseca said in regards to both the incident in the park and Rivera's suspension with the intent of termination.
For more information on the reasons behind Rivera's termination, the event at the park, and the events leading up to his termination, read this weekend's edition of the Hudson Reporter. – Gennarose Pope