Rumors that FBI agents paid a visit to West New York Town Hall last week appear to be a case of wishful thinking by opponents of Mayor Felix Roque.
While the FBI may indeed have gone to the building, they did not conduct a raid, sources said.
“Anybody who comes in wearing a suit and tie might be mistaken as an FBI agent,” one WNY official said.
A report about the FBI visit has surfaced in several media outlets, but they quote sources that are generally considered critical of the Roque administration.
“No one is saying what department the FBI visited,” the city official said. “When the FBI pays anyone a visit, they are very specific. To my knowledge the FBI has not been here.”
If the FBI did come, it may not concern Roque at all. Other sources say that there may be ongoing probes into issues involving a past mayoral campaign of former Newark mayor, now U.S. Sen., Cory Booker. Some of the people connected to that campaign are employed by people associated with West New York.
There are also a number of lawsuits, including one filed by former Assistant Town Attorney Mario Blanch, that allege wrongdoing that could have prompted an FBI visit.
“The FBI might simply have been looking for information like any citizen,” one source said.
But town officials, including Roque, do not seem to sweating it out.
Roque in fact seems more cool, calm, and collected than he has been since he was charged with conspiracy to hack into the website of a political opponent.
“I feel like I got the best gift in my life,” he said. “I’m a free man and I’m not worried. The community gave me a gift.”
Roque was found not guilty in October and has since been trying to rebuild his private medical practice and seeking to restore confidence in his administration.
Roque may have to win WNY Board of Education election with stealth candidates
Looming over the Roque Administration are two upcoming Board of Education elections that will first expand the board to nine with the election of two members on Jan. 28, one for a one-year term, the other for a two-year term.
Voters chose to go with an elected board by overwhelmingly approving a referendum in November. Prior to this, board members were appointed by the mayor. The election outcome was seen as a blow to Roque because he campaigned against the referendum. An elected board could result in his losing control over the political patronage the school district provides.
Insiders say Roque will not endorse any of the candidates running. This is a smart move, allowing candidates to run without the stigma of association with Roque. While he may secretly support two candidates in the first round, voters will not know who they are, perhaps giving them a better chance to get elected. Roque could then retain the control of the board anyway.
If openly anti-Roque candidates win on Jan. 28, however, then Roque could have a problem in the second round of elections in April when three sitting members are up for election, as well as a special election to replace Adrienne Sires, who resigned last month.
Although 19 originally filed for the Jan. 28 election, Tom Culhane was disqualified immediately because he filed after the 4 p.m. deadline. This left nine candidates for each of the two seats. But after closer examination Alcibiades Cifuetes was rejected as not being a registered voter in the district and Calixto Leon was rejected because one of the 10 signatories on the candidate’s petition is apparently an unregistered voter in the district.
So going into the Jan. 28 election, nine candidates will be running for the one-year term, and seven will be running for the two-year term, WNY officials said.
Who will be the deciding vote in Hoboken?
The November municipal election in Hoboken may have left a bitter after taste for some. Now it is time for others to make lemonade from the lemons the election gave them.
Frank Raia, of course, lost his opportunity to become a kingmaker by becoming the deciding fifth vote on a City Council, which has been evenly divided between those opposed to Mayor Dawn Zimmer and those who support her policies.
While Zimmer may have a 5-4 majority for most matters as of next year, she will still lack the sixth critical vote she needs to pass legislation on money matters. This will allow one of her opponents to make political deals.
The two most likely candidates for dealing with Zimmer will be Tim Occhipinti and Michael Russo.
Some supporters of Ruben Ramos, who lost his bid for mayor against Zimmer in the November race, claim that Occhipinti leaped into the race as a spoiler – someone who took just enough votes away from Ramos to allow Zimmer to win with less than 50 percent of the total vote. According to this theory, Occhipinti is expected to reap the rewards from some secret deal with Zimmer.
This has some Zimmer supporters laughing, claiming the Occhipinti is hardly someone any true Zimmer supporter would invite home for dinner.
Those approached to run on a ticket funded largely by failed council candidate Raia claim that Occhipinti had always been a figurehead, someone to top a ticket so that Raia could slip onto the council.
While the election has left some bruised feelings in both the Ramos and Occhipinti camps, the post election situation does provide Occhipinti an opportunity to regroup and possibly broker his vote on money matters with Zimmer – that is, if Russo doesn’t get there first.
This, too, has some Zimmer supporters in a very merry mood for Christmas, wondering which of these two former political enemies Santa Claus will leave in the Zimmer stocking.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.