West New York resident and town employee David Rivera was given a notice that he was being terminated this past Tuesday, just two days after he said he was attacked for giving out political information at Donnelly Park on Boulevard East.
In an interview on Tuesday, Rivera stated that he handed out business cards belonging to Commissioner Count Wiley, who has publically declared his intention to start a recall election against Mayor Felix Roque.
Roque was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation three months ago in connection with alleged hacking into a political opponent’s website, and Wiley has been expressing his disapproval of Roque’s conduct both in the media and during the past two contentious Board of Commissioners’ meetings.
Rivera claimed Tuesday that he was allegedly assaulted and threatened by members of the Department of Recreation after refusing to leave the public event on Sunday and that he had done nothing wrong by handing out Wiley’s business cards.
“I wasn’t at the event, but [Rivera] did nothing wrong,” Wiley agreed on Tuesday. “The kid worked seven days a week and was paid for five. They put a lot of trust in him and he did a great job.”
“All I’ve done is work hard.” – David Rivera
Police incident at Donnelly Park
The letter that Rivera got on Tuesday was signed by town attorney Gilberto Garcia and Commissioner of Public Safety Caridad Rodriguez.
Last Sunday, Rivera was attending a weekly public town event held at Donnelly Park on Boulevard East called “Sunset Sundays,” where food and music are provided.
Rivera admitted he was informing those who attended the event about Wiley’s intention to run for mayor. He told the Reporter on Tuesday that Commissioner FiorD'Aliza Frias allegedly used a microphone that was being used by musicians at the event to tell Rivera to leave the premises or she would call the police.
As Rivera didn’t believe he was doing anything illegal, he continued to hand out cards, and then remained at the event “talking to the people I’ve come to know while working for the town,” he said.
According to a police report dated that Sunday, officers responded to a call complaining that Rivera was handing out political flyers. The report does not state who placed the call.
The report also states that when questioned by the police, Rivera said he was handing out Wiley’s business cards and was then physically attacked for doing so. Rivera declined to disclose the identity of his alleged attackers.
“As I was leaving the park, three male members of the Recreation Department [allegedly] told me that what I was doing was wrong and that if I didn’t leave, they’d take me out,” Rivera said Tuesday. He said added that he began to laugh, because he felt he wasn’t doing anything wrong. “This is a public event, and as long a I’m not obstructing the peace or soliciting anyone, I’m not doing anything wrong,” he said.
Rivera said one man allegedly grabbed his shirt and threw him onto the ground while another one allegedly grabbed a metal folding chair and allegedly threatened to strike Rivera with it if he didn’t leave.
Police were called to the scene. The police report claims that Rivera had allegedly been intoxicated and had allegedly badmouthed the wife of one of the employees, and the employee had verbally defended his wife but not harmed Rivera. The report also states that one witness came forward and allegedly stated that Rivera had in fact been attacked, after which Rivera left the premises.
Rivera said last week that he was not intoxicated and that he did not receive a Breathalyzer test that would prove it. He also denied having insulted the employee’s wife.
Leading up to the notice
Rivera initially worked as the event coordinator for the town’s Recreation Department, then headed by Frias. But Roque reassigned each commissioner to a new department during a June 20 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Rivera was transferred on June 22 to the police records department. He received a civil service complaint letter the day before from Assistant Town Attorney Joe DeMarco on Frias’ behalf. The complaint stated that Rivera allegedly “failed to properly handle or submit requisitions, invoices, and other paperwork, unauthorized use of internet for personal use during work hours, [and] loss of town property (keys for recreation van).”
Rivera claimed the allegations were false, and that the penalty of a five-day suspension set to begin on July 9 never happened.
“At that time I felt so degraded,” Rivera said. “I have a clean record and all I’ve done is work hard. But I did the best I could anyway because that’s all I can do. If they made me clean the trash on the street, I’d do the best I could.”
Among the reasons stated in this past Tuesday’s notice for his intended termination was the allegation that Rivera had “engaged in insubordination of [his] supervisors within the premises of Town Hall during work hours by engaging in press interviews after being advised to perform [his] duties.”
The press mentioned in the letter referred to the time when Rivera spent his lunch break on Monday in an interview with Hudson County TV speaking about Sunday’s police incident.
The letter goes on to allege Rivera engaged in “Conduct Unbecoming a Public Employee, Neglect of Duty, Misuse of Public Office, and other sufficient cause for your immediate termination.”
Rodriguez did not return a phone call by press time. Garcia declined to comment on personnel matters.
Frias referred comment to the town’s Legal Department, who then referred comment to town spokesman Pablo Fonseca.
“It’s a personnel matter so the administration has no comment,” Fonseca said in regards to both the incident in the park and Rivera’s suspension with the intent of termination.
Rivera went to the Town Court Clerk’s office on Wednesday and pressed assault charges against the three men who allegedly assaulted him. A court date has yet to be set.
For more on this issue, see Al Sullivan’s political column this week on page 19, and see a related brief, page 4.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com