Roque accused of attempting to sidestep bidding process

Surveillance camera upgrades shot down by commissioners

The mayor's resolution for video surveillance upgrades sparked controversy.
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The mayor's resolution for video surveillance upgrades sparked controversy.

West New York Mayor Felix Roque added a resolution to the agenda at the Feb. 20 Board of Commissioners meeting which called for upgrading the town’s video surveillance system to the tune of $500,000.

But Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo and Gabriel Rodriguez were not ready to formally pass a resolution to spend $500,000 that hadn’t gone through a bidding process.

“Last December, on the 24th, a young man from Union City was shot by 61st street,” Roque said. “The family came to my office, and they were brokenhearted. I said to myself, we need to do something more.”

Roque was referencing an incident in which two victims were shot on Dec. 23. Nineteen-year-old Union City resident Steven Flores died, while the other victim sustained non life-threatening injuries, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s office.

“I hope my fellow commissioners will rethink this and follow my leadership.”  Felix Roque

“Given that you’re asking us to vote on an item of half a million dollars, there are public purchasing requirements and a possible bidding process,” Cirillo said. “I think it would be impossible to take a vote right away.” Cirillo recommended tabling the resolution until a purchasing agent and legal counsel could look into it.

Rodriguez said he wanted to focus on expanding the community policing program, citing an increase in foot patrols.

Roque countered that the resolution was a top priority, that the current surveillance system is antiquated, and that some cameras did not function properly.

“I hope my fellow commissioners will rethink this and follow my leadership,” Roque said. “Commissioner Cirillo, one life is worth more than $500,000.”

Roque asserts his authority

“Commissioner Rodriguez, the safety of my own is my jurisdiction, even though you’re the Public Safety Commissioner,” Roque said.

Rodriguez insisted to Roque that he should review the $500,000 resolution before signing off on it.

“In the three years you were public safety commissioner this was never brought up; now all of a sudden it has to be expedited,” Rodriguez said. “I think in all fairness to the budget in my department, and to the hiring of new officers, that our department, not yours — our department — should have the chance to review this along with Revenue and Finance to ensure that the funds are there.”

Before the vote, Town Attorney Michael Jimenez made clear that a standing motion was made on the vote, and only Roque had the option to table the resolution for a later date.

“This is a resolution that requires reviews and bids” Rodriguez said. “This is not the way we do business.”

“I’m saying that this is what I want, and this is what I’m proposing today,” Roque said, moving ahead with the vote.

The resolution was then voted down 2-3 by Rodriguez, Cirillo, and Guzman, while Roque and Commissioner Susan Colacurcio voted in favor of it.

After losing the vote, Roque held a press conference the next day on 61st Street where Flores was killed to discuss the failed resolution. Rodriguez attended the press conference, continuing the spat with  Roque.

“I think you should be ashamed that you’re trying to politically posture to spend $500,000 in the name of cameras,” Rodriguez said.

“You should be ashamed of yourself for voting against a resolution that you should’ve voted yes to,” Roque said. “This is not political.”

He vowed to re-introduce the resolution at the next commissioners’ meeting.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.