Mayoral candidate Pedro Rodriguez is accused of using his official position at the Paterson Police Department to drum up business for his wife’s private security camera business, according to a lawsuit filed by prominent developer Charles Florio on Tuesday.
Florio purchased the surveillance camera system for $40,450 from Shark Eyes Security, a firm owned by the wives of Rodriguez and another city employee, Ramon Joaquin. Rodriguez works as a telecommunications analyst and Joaquin as a public safety telecommunications specialist in the city.
Both Rodriguez and Joaquin handle the police camera system called “Eyes on Paterson.” The lawsuit alleges the company sold the surveillance system made up of 32 cameras to Florio with the promise the system will be tied to the “Eyes on Paterson” surveillance system that allows the public to feed real-time footage to police.
Florio later became aware the cameras, installed at his three apartment complexes on Auburn Street, were not synced to the police surveillance system. His lawsuit states only 20-percent of the cameras were tied to the city’s system.
“Pedro Rodriguez and Ramon Joaquin, as Paterson officials, solicited business to benefit themselves against the interest of the public at large,” reads the complaint. “It is a conflict of interest for Rodriguez and Joaquin in their official capacity to solicit business and again profit indirectly through limited liability companies owned by their wives.”
Florio alleged the business is a “shell company” under their wives’ names, but the business is run by both men. He said he has never had dealt with either men’s wives in the process of purchase and installation of the camera system.
“It’s the same thing Joey Torres did with the warehouse,” said Florio. Torres’ daughter was on paper as a co-owner of a beer distribution facility warehouse worked on by municipal workers that put the former mayor in prison.
“It’s absolutely not true,” said Rodriguez. He said he had nothing to do with the sale or installation of the cameras. “This is just a sad political ploy.” He said the ploy is designed to help Florio’s ally councilman Andre Sayegh.
Sayegh and Rodriguez are among six people running for mayor. Florio has given money to both Sayegh and McKoy.
Rodriguez said he will file a counter lawsuit for defamation against Florio. The developer said, when he refused to provide campaign contributions and refused to do business with the wives’ firm, Rodriguez began publicly attacking him by calling him a slumlord.
Florio filed the lawsuit due to Rodriguez’s public attacks against him. Rodriguez has repeatedly said he will not take money from developers and special interest. At a forum, Florio said, Rodriguez assailed him for purchasing majority of the property at a municipal auction.
Rodriguez denied ever soliciting contributions from Florio. “The only time I met him was at the Dominican gala,” he said. “After that, I never met him, or spoke to him over the phone.”
Florio said Joaquin tried to arrange a meeting between him and Rodriguez.
“I don’t want to meet the guy. He’s part of the problem in Paterson. I don’t want his money,” said Rodriguez.
“I have never solicited Mr. Florio. In fact, he solicited me. This lawsuit is obviously politically motivated since Mr. Florio has repeatedly contacted me seeking a meeting with Pedro, even as recently as two weeks ago, and has threatened to make trouble for Pedro and his campaign if he didn’t comply with his attempts to influence the election,” said Joaquin. “This is him being a bully because Pedro will not be bought.”
The firm is owned by Joaquin’s wife Evelin Rosario and Rodriguez’s wife Graciela Rodriguez. Rodriguez said his family contributed funds to assist Joaquin and his wife to start the business. He said his wife owns 50-percent of the company. He described the contribution as “small.”
The business is run out of 179 Kearny Street, according to incorporation documents in the lawsuit.
Florio, who hired a private investigator following a dispute with former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres that ultimately led to his downfall, is seeking $40,450 in damages through the lawsuit.