“The only trouble about suggesting that somebody ought to be investigated is that they are liable to suggest that you ought to be investigated,” political satirist Will Rogers once pointed out. “And from the record of all our previous investigations, it just looks like nobody can emerge with their noses entirely clean.”
This may be a warning that West New York politicos are issuing to the warmongering Freeholder Jose Munoz after a series of confrontations over legal fees and other matters during public meetings.
Recently, Munoz went after Gilberto Garcia, town attorney for West New York, regarding the $150,000 a year salary he received at the same time as he charged $150 per hour on top of that for “extra work.”
This is not unusual. Legal fees are the modern version of patronage. A political war over fees to politically connected legal firms eventually brought down Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia in the late 1990s.
But even supporters of the Roque administration were shocked at Garcia’s meltdown at the meeting and his lashing back at Munoz.
Some Roque people claim Munoz’s recent cooperation with federal authorities had gone far beyond the investigation into whether Mayor Felix Roque and his son had hacked into a Munoz-operated website, and had been part of a political attack allegedly generated out of North Bergen to undermine everyone in the Roque administration.
Insiders in the Roque camp said discovery during Roque trial in the fall showed dozens of calls between Munoz and Roque’s political enemies, suggesting that Munoz might have been operating on orders to go after Roque as well as others including Garcia, intending to destroy their reputations and careers.
“If Munoz wants to go there, then he will have to explain a lot about his actions, too,” said one source close to Garcia. “If Munoz keeps bringing this up, then everything will come out about what he did as well.”
During a recent WNY commissioners meeting, Munoz questioned the fact that Roque hired, as town attorneys, the same firms that helped defend Mayor Roque against his federal hacking charges. Roque was pronounced not guilty, but seems to have expended a significant amount of legal fees, hiring some top internet experts in his defense.
Munoz got more than a political black eye when Roque was acquitted. Instead of a special election this year to replace Roque, Munoz will have to worry about a primary challenge for his freeholder seat with no guarantee that the Democratic leadership will award Munoz the Democratic line.
Rumors abound that former WNY Commissioner Gerald Lange, who is also a former freeholder, is being groomed for Munoz’s spot. Lange, who ran with then-Mayor Sal Vega, was dumped as a commissioner in Roque’s sweep into office in May 2011. Although rumored as a possible mayoral challenger had Roque been forced to resign, Lange appears to have won Roque’s favor for the freeholder bid.
This is not the only former political enemy that Roque appears to be supporting. Vega, also a rumored mayoral candidate, might also get Roque’s support for an Assembly seat in opposition to Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez.
This may be a harder chore to accomplish. Jimenez has been a bulldog against Roque in the past, and even if State Sen. and Mayor Nicholas Sacco is willing to dump her (as some rumors suggest), Vega would risk starting a new civil war in North Hudson. State Sen. Brian Stack (who is also mayor of Union City) may still harbor ill feelings over the bitter election for state Senate in which Vega was his opponent. Rep. Albio Sires has his own gripes with Vega.
Yet both moves with Lange and Vega made perfect sense for Roque, who seems to have learned the fine art of buying off his political enemies by giving away positions.
Some of these people might well have become Munoz allies.
Is Jersey City ambulance contract Fulop’s Waterloo?
The war of words being waged over awarding of the Jersey City ambulance contract doesn’t bode well for the Fulop administration.
Jersey City Medical Center – which is fighting to keep control of a contract that it has held for more than century – keeps dropping political bombs such as “illegal provisions” and “changes of specs,” painting the Fulop Administration with the same broad brush strokes many Fulop supporters used to describe the previous administration.
CarePoint Healthcare system and Jersey City Medical Center aren’t just vying for control of an ambulance contract, but are going head to head in a number of strategic medical areas. CarePoint is buying up medical practices and opening one-stop centers in direct competition with JCMC parent Liberty Healthcare for the lucrative dollars Obamacare promises to unleash once the federal program is up and running.
CarePoint is threatening to unseat Liberty Healthcare as the predominant healthcare provider in the county, already flexing its muscles with the purchase of Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital in Jersey City.
In seeking to award the ambulance bid to McCabe Ambulance – which is serving as a front for CarePoint in this fight – the Fulop Administration seems to be picking the side it thinks will win the medical war, and if CarePoint succeeds in Jersey City, watch for them to try to take over some of the existing contracts with Hudson County where Fulop ally Freeholder Bill O’Dea already has gripes with JCMC.