WEST NEW YORK – Former Hudson County Freeholder Jose Munoz might be Cuban-born like his fellow West New York resident, Mayor Felix Roque, but the two politicos remain bitter, longtime rivals.
Munoz testified against Roque and his son at a 2013 federal trial after charges were filed against the Roques in 2012 for allegedly hacking a website set up by then-Freeholder Munoz that aimed to recall Roque. Roque was acquitted of the charges in October 2013; his son, Joseph, was convicted of a misdemeanor.
Munoz chose not to run in this year’s West New York municipal elections. But now, in response to an interview that Roque did with PolitickerNJ days before the May 12 West New York municipal election, Munoz revived his rivalry with Roque, lashing out on several points.
“There is no doubt that Roque has no conception of the truth nor can he distinguish between right and wrong,” said Munoz in an email to PolitickerNJ, saying that Roque provided “a myriad of misinformation” in the interview.
“First of all, a jury acquitted Roque and to even think, yet alone say, ‘I think they realized they had the wrong person,’ means there was a right person. The jury found his son guilty, so according to Roque, his son being the right person got what he deserved – how pathetic is that?” Munoz said.
Regarding Roque’s shift from running against the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) in 2011 to having their full support in 2015, which Roque attributed in part to his relationship with state Assembly Speaker and HCDO Chairman Vinny Prieto, Munoz was equally harsh.
“Any fool can see the value of being supported by the HCDO. The relationship he has with the HCDO is enviable, but should that be the qualifier for being an elected official? I think not,” Munoz wrote. “When you look at Roque’s track record in office, it’s a political embarrassment and I give the State Assembly Speaker and HCDO Chairman an A+ for his loyalty, but question his rationale in supporting Roque as an elected official and Chairman.”
Munoz also questioned Roque’s policies regarding the town school board. Roque has been accused of allegedly meddling in school district personnel matters for political reasons. Roque said in the PolitickerNJ interview that he agreed with the change from an appointed school board to an elected one.
“What Roque failed to add is that he increased the [number of] school board members so that he would be guaranteed a majority,” Munoz said. “Forget about doing it diplomatically through negotiating – he chose to be the dictator, just like [Cuban dictator Fidel] Castro.”
“As far as Roque supporting the school district referendum which allowed the residents to select their own Board of Education representatives, his comment is so far from the truth. His own prior actions demonstrate his unwillingness to compromise. He did not win, he and his side lost. The people of West New York won. What’s unfortunate in a town like West New York, money does play a significant role in the election’s outcome. I suppose that’s why Roque is so willing to put nearly a million dollars into his win which completely negates other respectful challengers. Here the old saying about ‘money talks’ couldn’t be more accurate.”
Munoz also attacked Roque’s militaristic analogies made in reference to the well-known veteran political operative Pablo Fonseca, who is Roque’s campaign manager. Roque referred to Fonseca being “like a sniper,” as well as to the more than $100,000 of his personal money he has spent on the campaign, with an additional $600,000 to back his efforts up.
“So the first question one needs to ask is, ‘What’s behind the curtain to make a campaign in West New York worth nearly a million dollars?” Munoz said. “Second question one needs to ask is, [this] take no prisoners agenda, if we are speaking about operatives, grenades and snipers – now how sick is that? Having a scorched earth policy means this guy thinks he can do anything, almost like Castro.”
Roque, who will face off against mayoral race challenger West New York Commissioner Count Wiley on May 12, answered the allegations made by Munoz.
“I wanted to bring an expert in to the trial that would have showed that my son didn’t take the website down,” Roque said. “I think Munoz did it himself, but they couldn’t prove either one did it. The expert would have proven that my son is innocent.”
Roque then proceeded to defend his record overall.
“My track record is good. We have an A+ bond rating, unemployment is down, crime is down, taxes haven’t gone up and the parks have all been renovated,” Roque said. “What was Munoz’s record when he was a freeholder? If he had done such a good job, he still would be there.”
Roque finally responded to Munoz’s repeated references to Castro.
“During my trial, we were notified that Munoz allegedly made illegal trips to Cuba via Mexico. He’s the one who loves the Castro regime by going there when it was illegal and when he was an elected official,” Roque said. “I had the distinct honor and pleasure of having served my country in the U.S. Army for the last 36 years. What is his service record besides being a former freeholder? People like him motivative me to keep doing what I’m doing. That’s all I have to say.”