State Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez’s website revealed last Wednesday that she worked for Congressman Albio Sires; an apparent violation of the state constitution.
Rodriguez, who represents the 33rd District (Guttenberg, Hoboken, parts of Jersey City, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York), was apparently in violation of the state constitution that cites “no person holding any federal or state office or position of profit, and no judge of any court shall be entitled to a seat in the Legislature.”
“It took me totally by surprise,” said Rodriguez in a recent phone interview.
In such cases, Albert Porroni, executive director of the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, said that officials are given the chance to choose a position before the Assembly seat is vacated, as read by the constitution.
“In situations like this, you usually have to [choose] an office,” said Porroni, adding, “To my understanding, [Rodriguez] has resigned her position with Congressman Sires.”
Rodriguez’s website had her occupation listed as “Office Manager, Office of Congressman Albio Sires,” a position reported to have paid $60,000, but after the Asbury Park Press broke the story on it March 1, the job was removed from her site.
Upon being questioned by reporters, Rodriguez resigned her position with Sires on Friday.
A spokeswoman for Sires confirmed that Rodriguez resigned her post as of Friday, Feb. 29 at 5 p.m. citing “years of employment” despite the fact that she had been sworn into the Assembly in January.
Porroni noted that the issue is not seen often.
“Had I known [of the conflict], I would have immediately given up my position with the congressman,” said Rodriguez.
“It’s not common,” said Porroni, who added, “Historically, we did have members who had the potential of holding two offices … but the members always elected [their position].”
Said Rodriguez, “It was a very, very honest oversight by everyone.” Rodriguez later added that she looked forward to returning to the Assembly on Thursday.
Rodriguez has said in the past that while working for Sires, she was in charge of the congressman’s “constituent services.”
“My main duty was listening to the people and attending to their needs. It also led me to deal with local, state, and federal offices on a daily basis [to resolve problems], which has given me great satisfaction,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was recently sworn into the Assembly after winning the legislative seat last year together with Ruben Ramos Jr. of Hoboken. Together, Rodriguez and Ramos both ran under the newly formed Democrats for Hudson County (DFHC), spearheaded by state Sen. Brian Stack.
West New York woman
Last spring, Rodriguez ran for state Assembly on the DFHC slate and promised to offer the 33rd legislative district programs such as affordable housing, education, and health care.
During her campaign, Rodriguez noted that she wanted to address the overcrowding problem on the elementary school level and increase access to higher education.
Rodriguez, a Hudson County resident for over 40 years, used to serve as commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the township of West New York and was the first female in commissioner in the history of West New York.
Prior to that, Rodriguez also served as a member of the West New York Planning Board for six years and on the Board of Adjustment for three years.
Rodriguez was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1962, when she settled in Union City.
Rodriguez graduated from Union Hill High School, and in 1968, she moved with her husband Joseph to North Bergen where they raised their three children. In 1999, Rodriguez returned to West New York.
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.