By MATT FRIEDMAN
It just keeps getting nastier in the race for the 33rd district State Senate seat.
Barely a week after accusing Brian Stack of bribing County Committee candidates who were running opposed to him to get off the ballot, Silverio “Sal” Vega held another press conference, this time accusing Stack of intimidating and “abusing” several Union City employees who refused to support his prior runs for office.
“We’ve been doing this now for three weeks– highlighting the evils of the Brian Stack administration,” said Vega. “The dots have connected themselves. The evidence is clear.”
Seven current and former Union City employees attended the press conference, five of whom filed a lawsuit against Stack and The City of Union City last month. All said that they were either harassed or fired from their jobs after either refusing to purchase tickets to Stack fundraising events or not working on behalf of Stack’s campaigns during his previous runs for office.
Among the miffed city workers was Dalia Munoz, a maintenance worker a City Hall. She said her troubles began in 2002, after she refused to purchase tickets to a Stack fundraiser. Starting immediately afterward, she claimed she was subject to harassment by supervisors, given irregular work hours and a larger workload. Munoz, a lesbian, also claimed that she was told to use the men’s bathroom because of her sexual orientation.
Justo Delgado, a former Department of Public Works employee, said Stack approached him personally in 2005 to ask him to hand out fliers for him over a weekend. Delgado claimed that after he refused to do so, his supervisors began harassing him. He said he took his complaint to Mayor Stack himself at a town meeting, but was publicly admonished not to “bring his problems here. Only your Supervisor can remedy your problems.” Delgado also claimed to have mowed the private lawns of Stack’s friends and supporters while he was on the clock. He was fired in May of 2005.
The other accusers made similar allegations.
“This is really, really old news,” said a spokesman for the Stack campaign who did not want to be named. “It’s all part of the ongoing HCDO sleaze campaign.” The accusers, the spokesman said, are Stack political opponents with “an axe to grind.”
The Stack spokesman added that that the instances of alleged abuse happened years ago, but were not brought up by Vega’s campaign until now.
The claims of workplace intimidation and improper dismissal were the latest volley of charges that the two candidates have hurled against one another throughout this particularly volatile campaign. Yesterday, Congressman Albio Sires endorsed Stack, decrying the “sleaziness” of the campaign so far and pointing the blame at Vega and the HCDO, which backs him.
The tension was palpable just after the press conference, when Stack aide and Cuban Day Parade President Emilio Del Valle, along with several other parade officials, tried to confront Vega as he was on his way back to the “Freedom Wagon.” Del Valle said that his complaint had nothing to do with the current campaign — he wanted to ask Vega why he refused to allow the parade to march down West New York’s stretch of Bergenline Avenue.
Vega ignored him and walked briskly into the wagon, while Del Valle pressed his case loudly to the RV’s closed door, asking how Vega expects to be State Senator when he “won’t give answers.” A Vega supporter started yelling back at Del Valle in Spanish, and a loud argument erupted between about half a dozen men, attracting the attention of concerned looking bystanders.
“They’re here to harass the mayor,” said Jack Bohrer, a spokesman for the HCDO. “I’m pretty sure they all have public jobs with Union City, and they’ve been standing out front for an hour and a half.”
The Stack spokesman claimed that this was the nastiest campaign he’d ever seen in Hudson County. “I keep waiting for the fist fights to get out,” he said. “I’m not kidding. I’m shocked they haven’t broken out yet.”