By David Cruz
As Hudson County corruption cases go, this was a minor one. Mayor Felix Roque and his son, Joseph, were accused of hacking into a website called recallroque.com and harassing the webmaster — a Hudson freeholder and coincidentally FBI informant Jose Munoz. The mixed verdict — not guilty for Roque and a misdemeanor guilty for his son — left administration critic, Commissioner Count Wiley, fuming.
“When a father comes out of a courthouse and he’s smiling, after his son was just convicted of a crime and he’s gonna do time in jail, I don’t know what there is to be happy about,” Wiley said outside town hall today. “What does this kid have to look forward to now? Every time he goes for a job interview or he comes up in front of somebody, you know, you were convicted of a crime.”
Wiley is leading the recall effort against the mayor, claiming he’s run the town into the ground. “Nothing’s getting done. The streets are dirty, unqualified people running departments and the intimidation factor,” he said. “That’s what really fires me to go. That’s what I got involved here for over six years ago.”
Roque has battled the county’s Democratic political establishment before, endorsing Republicans and getting chummy with Gov. Chris Christie, before that was cool for Hudson Democrats to do. He’s been a maverick, but prosecutors tried to portray him as a megalomaniac. In this immigrant town of just over 50,000, reaction to the verdict among long-time residents was mixed.
“It was a tremendous burden on the community,” said Richard Rivera. “It lingered overhead for over a year. Now with the not guilty verdict by his peers, the mayor has been vindicated and we’ll move on with the normal course of business within the town.”
Myrli Sanchez supports the Roque recall. “I was saddened that the son, Joseph, took the hit for everybody and to see a family go through that, as a mother I felt compassion for him,” she said.
The government shutdown has closed the U.S. Attorney’s Office so we couldn’t talk to them today and the state’s star witness also was unavailable. Roque, who could’ve taken a plea, took his chances with a jury and won. His son, who has no previous record, could walk away with probation. Late today, the city clerk announced that the recall effort had, indeed, failed, giving the mayor his second big victory in a week.