WNY mayor and son plead not guilty in federal court on charges of alleged computer hacking
West New York Mayor Felix Roque and his son Joseph pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning in Newark federal court.
The two were charged with three counts of computer hacking, related to a political opponent's "Recall Roque" web site.
The Roques’ attorney, Bryan Blaney, suggested in court that the case may be politically motivated.
Blaney said in an interview after the arraignment that the judge had initially set a date for him to file any motions on behalf of the Roques by Sept. 5. A motion may challenge any of the counts or the entire indictment, or suggest a reason to suppress certain evidence to be presented, for instance.
In court, Blaney argued that they had not yet received certain information they had requested from the government about the case, and that they would not be able to sufficiently review that information once received by Sept. 5. He added that the judge granted a continuance and it should be about a month before Blaney files the appropriate motions on the Roques’ behalf.
After this occurs, a trial date will be set.
Blaney also said the judge had set a recognizance bail, which means the Roques were released without having to post monetary bail with the promise they would show up for the next court date. If they do not show up, they will then have to pay.
Roque was formally indicted on Aug. 9 after his and his son’s May 24 arrest.
Roque has stated in the past that he has no intention to resign as mayor as a result of the indictment.
“He is certainly not guilty and I’m looking forward to getting to a point when we can demonstrate that,” Blaney said Wednesday afternoon.
North Bergen, Union City square off over fire squad payment
North Bergen has demanded that Union City pay what they say is an overdue contribution to the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR) squad – which serves five towns in Hudson County – or face legal action.
The demand has furthered a political rift between the two towns’ mayors, Brian Stack and Nicholas Sacco, two local Democratic rivals.
At issue is $5.7 million plus interest that Union City owes to the NHRFR. Each town must pay several million dollars into the squad’s annual budget.
Lawyers for North Bergen have said Mayor Stack and Union City’s failure to pay its allocated shares towards the NHRFR’s costs has disrupted the regional company’s business, including limiting its ability to make pension fund contributions, according to a letter released last week.
The letter was sent on Aug. 16 and gives Union City 10 days to pay up or legal action will be taken against them.
“This has been a habitual thing, for many years they’re six months late, they’re 10 months late, then they pay,” said North Bergen Town Spokesperson Phil Swibinski. “It really damages the Regional’s ability to operate. It’s led to close to a million dollars in interest charges by the pension system. North Bergen taxpayers should not subsidize Union City. Union City should get its finances in order, they should pay their bills.”
Union City makes the largest contribution, $18 million a year, of all five member towns in the NHRFR, which also includes North Bergen, Weehawken, Guttenberg and West New York.
“The cost is too high for Union City,” said Mayor Brian Stack last week. “This is definitely politically being done by Mayor Sacco. They didn’t regionalize fire prevention and fire inspection, which are the two most important aspects of fighting fires. This is Sacco playing politics because I don’t adhere to his political plans for the county.”
Stack said he was never contacted by anyone from North Bergen. He wants a reassessment of the NHRFR’s budget formula, which is based on assessed property values.
Stack says the men in the fire department do an outstanding job and this has nothing to do with them.
Formula One Grand Prix of America president steps down
Tom Cotter, who has been president of Formula One Grand Prix of America for less than a year, announced Monday he is stepping down in a statement issued by the race’s promoters. He has been one of the driving forces behind the Formula One race set to run through roads in Weehawken and West New York in June 2013.
“Over the last eight months I’ve had the good fortune to lead a group of professionals in bringing Formula One racing to the New Jersey and New York region,” Cotter said in the statement. He said the group has moved the project forward rapidly, “but now, it’s time to return home to North Carolina.”
Cotter plans to attend the race, he added, and his stepping down will not delay the event’s arrival in Hudson County.
The race is one of several major events to happen in this area in the next few years, including the 2014 Super Bowl.
Dvine Konektion to hold Community Fair
The Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation, a non-profit organization based in West New York, hosts a free Community Fair every month as a way of helping those in need. They distribute free bags of groceries and baby supplies such as formula, diapers and wipes to families living in Hudson County.
When the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant in Secaucus heard about the work of this local non-profit, they decided to sponsor a hot lunch for all of the participants. Regional Managing Partner Hector Reyes and several of his restaurant employees came to a recent fair and personally grilled over 300 burgers for the community to enjoy.
“It is truly encouraging to see the executive of a restaurant give so generously of his time and energy to help those less fortunate,” said Tania Fuentes, founder and president of the Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation.
Dvine Konektion is having its next Community Fair on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 5516 Jefferson St. in West New York. Those interested in attending or donating food and/or items can call (201) 617-4484 for more information.
New method announced for reporting sewer-related emergencies
The North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) announced that customers now have two new ways to report sewer-related emergencies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The new system also allows customers to track the status of those issues until they are resolved.
Customers in the NHSA service area, which includes Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken and West New York, can now either call an emergency telephone hotline number, (866) 689-3970, or submit an online form available through the Authority’s website at www.nhudsonsa.com (click on the “Contact Us/Report A Problem” link on left side of the home page), to report emergency issues such as sewer odors, sewer backups in the home or a business, suspected breaks in a sanitary sewer or storm drain, missing manhole covers or other sewer-related issues.
“We are very pleased to inaugurate this state-of-the-art reporting system, which makes it easier for our customers to report emergency issues,” NHSA Chairman Richard J. Wolff said. “We particularly like the tracking feature, which allows customers to get updates on the status of these issues as they are being addressed.
“This Authority has a very long track record of employing best practices in engineering, wastewater management, environmental policy, and financial and operational management,” Wolff continued. “This is another example of our commitment to remain the best-managed wastewater authority in the state of New Jersey.”
When reporting a problem through either the hotline or online, customers will be asked to provide the location and specific details of the problem. They also will be asked to provide contact information such as their name, phone number and email address so NHSA staff can contact them regarding the status of the problem.
The information is then used to create a work order, and customers will be offered the order number for their records and to track the status of their request.
Once an issue has been identified through the hotline or online form, it is prioritized and assigned to NHSA staff for resolution. After the problem is corrected, the work order is closed, and the customer will be advised of its resolution if they have provided contact information. Using the work order number, customers also can use the hotline to get updates on their issues prior to resolution.
These tools are intended for emergency problems only; customers should call the NHSA’s main telephone number, (201) 963-6043, between the regular business hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, for routine matters.