Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno on Friday said that she has “complete confidence” in her running mate Carlos Rendo despite allegations of religious discrimination in Woodcliff Lake, the Bergen County community where he is mayor.
Woodcliff Lake is currently under federal investigation for allegedly discriminating against an Orthodox Jewish organization called Valley Chabad, according to a letter obtained by Politico. That letter, sent to Rendo, said investigators from the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey are looking into the town’s compliance with the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, Politico reported.
Valley Chabad filed a lawsuit against Woodcliff Lake in 2016 alleging that the town repeatedly blocked the group from buying property for a new worship center, according to Politico. The conflict stretches back more than a decade, before Rendo was first elected mayor in 2013. However, the lawsuit charges that Rendo’s tenure as mayor has also been marked by conflict between the town and Valley Chabad’s mission to build a new house of worship in the community.
“It is a routine investigation into a land use issue, the mayor just happened to be the last one standing when the document came in,” Guadagno told Observer after an unrelated press event on Friday. “I think mayor Rendo has answered for it and will answer for it in his official capacity as mayor.”
According to Guadagno, the letter’s release is likely connected to the ongoing New Jersey governor’s race. She will face Democratic candidate Phil Murphy on Nov. 7.
“Don’t think it is a coincidence that that letter came out six weeks before an election, this is silly season,” Guadagno said. “I have complete confidence that this is just a routine examination, probably generated by a little political season.”
Rendo was reached for comment but referred Observer to a statement made by Guadagno spokesman Ricky Diaz in the Politico story about the letter. That statement read: “While he is not personally being investigated, Mayor Rendo is cooperating fully in his official capacity as mayor and looks forward to these false and ridiculous allegations being dismissed.”