On Aug. 2, West New York Commissioner Fior D’Aliza Frias filed harassment complaints against former town employee David Rivera and fellow Commissioner Count Wiley, Wiley’s attorney Fernando Jimenez confirmed Tuesday.
Two complaints were made to the West New York Police Department against Wiley. The first was for alleged harassment when Wiley allegedly went into Frias’ office shortly after a contentious June 18 Board of Commissioners meeting during which the board voted to reassign all of the commissioners to different departments.
The political scene in West New York has become heated in recent months since Mayor Felix Roque was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May and formally indicted on Aug. 9 for allegedly hacking into a political opponent’s website. Wiley has been expressing his disapproval of Roque’s conduct both in the media and during the past three contentious Board of Commissioners’ meetings. Wiley has publically declared his intention to start a recall election against Roque and run for mayor himself.
In West New York, the town is run by five elected commissioners, one of whom also serves as mayor.
Wiley and Frias have been at odds ever since Mayor Roque wanted the commissioners to switch the departments that they oversee. The process required each commissioner to move into new offices and learn new roles, which was dubbed an exercise in “cross-training” by Roque, who also happens to be a colonel in the U.S. Army.
“Fior [D’Aliza Frias] claims I went and threatened her in the office when all I did was have a conversation with her.” – Count Wiley
There has been much speculation as to the true intent of the reorganization, including by Wiley himself, and many feel that Frias was reassigned to the Department of Revenue and Finance in order to place her next in line should Roque be forced to step down from his position as mayor.
“I busted my hump for the DPW for the past year and made so many improvements,” Wiley said in an interview Tuesday. “Fior claims I went and threatened her in the office when all I did was have a conversation with her.”
The Donnelly Park incident
The complaint made against Rivera, filed on July 29, stems from a police incident that occurred during a town event known as “Sunset Sundays” at Donnelly Park.
Rivera told the Reporter earlier this month that he was allegedly assaulted and threatened by members of the Department of Recreation after refusing to leave the public event, because he was handing out Wiley’s business cards.
Rivera was given a notice from the town on July 31 that he was being suspended with the intention to terminate him from his position.
Frias proceeded to file a complaint against Rivera based on his actions during the event according to the complaint.
“I don’t understand the basis of the complaint because it said he was distributing political propaganda at a private event which was in fact public,” Jimenez explained Wednesday. “I don’t see how that could in any way, shape, or form be recognized as harassment, as there is a first amendment right that everyone enjoys to be able to speak and express their opinion in a public space.”
The complaint reads that Rivera allegedly “did commit an act of harassment…[and] did use loud and abusive language against the victim [Frias], further [allegedly] invading the victim’s personal space in an act to intimidate while flailing his arms.”
Rivera filed harassment complaints against the employees who allegedly assaulted him the week after the incident. He did not file assault complaints against them.
After the incident
The second complaint Frias placed against Wiley is related to the one she placed against Rivera. After the alleged incident in the park, Rivera phoned Wiley to tell him what had happened. Wiley then picked Rivera up from his home and brought him back to the park, Wiley said Tuesday.
“After the police incident, he called me from his home,” Wiley continued. “When I heard what happened, I didn’t want [the town] to think they could get away with this behavior. I fought against the previous administration for intimidation, and I couldn’t stomach it happening again.”
When they reached the park, almost everyone had packed up and left, he said, so they returned to Rivera’s home. Frias lives on the same street, and the two passed her as she was sitting in her vehicle outside her home, Wiley said.
He then expressed his disappointment with what happened at the park, he said, and later called Frias to speak further with her about the incident.
“I left a message saying, ‘It’s in your best interest to give me a call,’ ” Wiley continued. “It was a commissioner reaching out to a commissioner which is not unheard of; it’s my job!”
The complaint against Wiley reads that he “did use loud and abusive language against the victim, speaking to the victim in a threatening manner and stating that she should check herself [and that] God will punish people like her.”
Wiley claimed Tuesday he told Frias, “You call yourself a woman of God, so you better get yourself right with God,” but that he did not threaten her.
Exploring their options
The next step for Rivera and Wiley, Jimenez said, is to consider the possibility of a civil rights suit, as Rivera and Wiley were exercising their rights to free speech.
“Commissioner Wiley is not going to file a cross complaint against Commissioner Frias because he feels there’s no basis for it and that it’s the wrong thing to do,” Jimenez explained. “But we are looking at a possible civil rights complaint for violations of first amendment rights and expression of political opinion. When the time comes we’ll do what we need to do.”
A call was made to Frias Wednesday concerning the complaints, during which she declined to comment for legal reasons.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org