Former Commissioner Count Wiley was relaxing outside his West New York home earlier this month when several people passed by. Some of the kids kept calling him “Mayor Wiley” even though his ticket was beaten in May by a ticket led by Mayor Felix Roque.
Although victorious in the election, Mayor Roque suffered a legal setback two weeks ago when he was indicted for allegedly taking $250,000 in bribes between 2007 and 2012 for allegedly steering patients to a company owned by a campaign contributor.
While Roque said he can prove his innocence, the charges came at a time when Wiley and other political opponents appeared to be completely down and out.
The charges may reinvigorate the opposition to Roque in much the same way charges filed against Roque and his son, Joseph, did in 2012. Both were accused of conspiring to hack into the website run by then-Freeholder Jose Munoz, a prominent Roque opponent. Although the federal jury found Roque not guilty and his son guilty only of a misdemeanor, the charges created a political cloud over Roque often exploited by his political opponents. The May election was supposed to have blown away the remnants of that cloud as Roque leads a whole new slate of commissioners into office.
But now the cloud is back and so is the opposition.
Wiley said the kids calling him mayor in front of his house had only confirmed what he had been thinking since his election.
“It was like somebody hit me in the head and told me I had to go back,” he said. “There are things are that need to be done.”
After the loss, he admitted, he was almost ready to give up, figuring voters had decided, “That’s the way it is,” he said.
But he knew he couldn’t just give up. So when indictment was announced, he realized he had to get involved again.
“There are reasons why this happened,” he said, believing that many of the issues he raised in the campaign are still valid. The Roque administration has more than $8 million in potential lawsuit payouts and issues with the municipal budget, Wiley said.
“I don’t believe Roque is capable of running our town,” Wiley said.
The election loss, he said, taught him a lot of things, and he will be organizing again starting in July.
“I’m going to attend the July commissioners’ meeting, where I will be making an announcement,” he said. “This time we’re going to do it the right way. I know who the key people are. I will be better prepared to know what we need to do.”
Roque, meanwhile, has had a rough time since the election. The charges came just prior to his mother’s death.
“Frankly, I’m surprised she made it as long as she did,” he had said.
Many thought his mother would not survive to see his reelection, but she did.
“I’m very grateful for that,” Roque said. “But she was in pain, and I remember sitting with her holding her hand praying for God to help her. While I’m very sad at her death, I’m also relieved that she is no longer in pain.”
Roque said he would vigorously defend himself against the bribery charges, and claimed he could prove his innocence.
“I have the evidence to prove I’m innocent,” he said.
Who really is in Fulop’s kitchen cabinet?
Two weeks ago, this column joked about the inner political circle behind Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s plans to run for governor in 2017. This week insiders gave us a peek behind the scenes.
“Steve’s kitchen cabinet is pretty small,” one insider said.
This includes former governor Jim McGreevey, attorney Donald Scarinci, recently hired Chief of Staff Mark Albiez, attorney Mike Decotis, Bob Sommer, and Tom Bertoli.
Bertoli is the closest to Fulop and his chief political operative. Fulop makes no political move without consulting him. But Scarinci was the first to endorse Fulop’s move for governor and serves as the potential campaign’s chief architect.
Rumors coming out of the Fulop camp that Rep. Albio Sires will step down next year are grossly exaggerated, according to people close to Sires.
“Albio will be running for reelection next year,” this source said.
Why is Zimmer coming after Romano?
Although Hoboken has yet to hold its midterm municipal elections (slated for 2015), it appears the 2017 campaign for mayor has already started.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer apparently is seeking to take advantage of some confusion in the recent Democratic primary, and has taken aim at newly-elected chairman, Anthony Romano.
Romano replaced Jamie Cryan as chairman, in a power struggle for control of the Democratic Party ahead of the November election.
Cryan angered a number of fellow Democrats when he named Zimmer to one of the committee seats. Some believe he did this to win Zimmer as an ally in his fight to retain the chairmanship.
In the chaotic committee reorganization meeting on Monday, June 16, the committee violated its bylaws by elected two men as chair and vice chair. Romano was named as chairman, and Councilman Michael Russo as vice chair. The bylaws stipulate that one of the two top seats must go to a woman.
Romano said this is not a big deal and that the committee will reconvene in July to replace Russo with a woman.
Zimmer, meanwhile, has personally reached out to a number of media outlets to get more press for the mistake, in an apparent move to take some shine off of Romano’s chairmanship.
A political poll conducted on Romano’s behalf appears to show that he has favorable numbers in a head-to-head match with Zimmer for mayor, several sources said.
Closed doors on Bayonne Initiative?
The storefront offices of the Bayonne Initiative have been empty and dark for nearly a week, leading to speculation that the group may have closed shop for good.
The Initiative was part of a coalition that helped Mayor James Davis win against incumbent Mayor Mark Smith in 2014. But its members soon split from Davis. They were instrumental in backing an alternative Assembly ticket in the June 9 Democratic primary for the 31st District (which includes all of Bayonne and half of Jersey City.) Although a low turnout primary election, the candidates the Initiative backed were trounced. The group also was accused of not paying its workers, showing signs that it had money problems. Some believe the doors will be closed on the Broadway office for good shortly. Many political observers believe this is the end of the Initiative, but only time will tell.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.