When you talk to municipal workers in West New York about the legal quagmire Mayor Dr. Felix Roque is caught in, you hear a mixture of confidence and despair. Some workers believe, as Roque does, that he will be found not guilty, while others are much more pessimistic.
Roque, a pain management specialist, went to trial this week on a charge that he was involved with a bribery scheme involving referring patients to a testing lab. Two other charges were dropped last summer.
But Roque’s troubles are part of a much larger picture. Doctors across the state have been dragged into the case by the lab owner, who can reduce his own sentence by naming others. A number of the trials of others have resulted in hung juries. But like some people charged in the federal Bid Rig investigation in 2009, some doctors apparently have pleaded guilty in an apparent effort to get on with their lives.
Roque said he believes he will be vindicated and says he will not plead to something he believes he is innocent of.
Three years ago the mayor was found not guilty of federal charges that he conspired to hack into the website of a political opponent. Those charges were less serious than the one he faces now, but the political scene then was totally different. West New York’s government is more stable now than three years ago. While local workers hope Roque is once more vindicated, government will go on if he’s not, local workers say.
Three years ago, Roque had significant political opposition. Today, there is peace, and a transition will likely be well thought out by the current Board of Commissioners.
Jersey City gearing up for municipal elections
When Mayor Steven Fulop abandoned his plans to run for governor and said he would seek reelection as mayor of Jersey City instead, the political landscape in Jersey City changed dramatically, leaving a number of people scrambling to find a spot in one campaign or another.
Up and coming Nicholas Grillo was apparently being considered for a slot on Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s municipal council ticket. But since Fulop is running, O’Dea most likely won’t run for mayor.
Sean Connors, who ran for council four years ago, is expected to be on a ticket next year as well, but it is unclear which. He could wind up, ironically, as a council candidate on a slate headed by potential mayoral candidate Councilman Michael Yun – someone Connors opposed in the last election.
With three candidates already declared – Fulop, Bill Matsikoudis, and Charles Mainor – there are slots available, and more if Yun jumps into the race. Most people expect this to be a repeat of the 1992 election in Jersey City, a free-for-all with many tickets all scrambling to get quality candidates. If so, then Fulop will have to work hard to maintain his majority on the City Council. No matter what, the faces on the council will likely change dramatically from where they are today.
Old guard hopes to rebuild in Secaucus
Once a dominating force in Secaucus, old guard Democrats believe they have an opportunity to rebuild their party and plan to field a slate of candidates for mayor and council next year.
The Democrats saw the old guard crushed in 2010, partly due to a corruption conviction that forced then Mayor Dennis Elwell to resign. But in truth, Mike Gonnelli, leading a party of Independents, had already started a movement that might have swept Democrats out of the council despite Elwell’s problems.
Time, these Democrats believe, has allowed them to recover. They believe they already have a mayoral candidate lined up, and are currently building a slate that will include three council candidates as well. Currently, there are no opposition members to Mayor Gonnelli on the council.
Will Guttenberg be in play next year?
Although it is unclear yet as to whether Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff will seek reelection, a few people are already preparing in case he doesn’t. Drasheff has been credited with keeping normally sleepy Guttenberg out of any scandals since replacing David Della Donna as mayor in 2008. A lot, of course, will depend on the whim of state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who generally has a lot to say about who is elected in neighboring Guttenberg.
Soares bows out
Former Hoboken Councilman Tony Soares says personal issues made him decide not to seek another term on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
“Over the past few months, I was approached by several Hoboken council members who all asked I stay on the NHSA,” he said. “In fact, I am confident I had the votes.”
But he said work duties and medical issues made him decide not to seek the seat again.
“I’m busy with real estate, and I’ve done this for seven years,” he said. “I sent a letter to the mayor and council a month ago that I did not want to be reappointed.”
Union City turkeys excelled expectations
State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack said that turkey delivery over Thanksgiving reached new heights. Originally, the Brian Stack Civic Association had planned to deliver as many as 22,000 turkeys to needy families. The final count came closer to 30,000. Is it any wonder people come out in vast numbers to reelect Stack and his commissioners every four years? Stack has turkey power.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org