Paterson: Sayegh administration fires Mendez campaign lieutenant from city job in alleged ‘political retaliation’ | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson: Sayegh administration fires Mendez campaign lieutenant from city job in alleged ‘political retaliation’

By Jayed Rahman
Published: November 6, 2020


Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration fired former councilman Alex Mendez’s campaign lieutenant Omar Ledesma from his city job on Thursday afternoon.

Ledesma alleged his termination was an act of “political retaliation” by Sayegh. Mendez and Sayegh have been political rivals since the mayoral race in 2018. Mendez came in second place in the race behind Sayegh.

Sayegh has funded Mendez’s main rival, former longtime councilman William McKoy, in the ongoing 3rd Ward race.

“It’s coming from him,” alleged Ledesma referring to Sayegh. In late October, Ledesma put out a video of Sayegh viciously attacking McKoy during the mayoral race two years ago. Sayegh accuses McKoy of benefiting from convicted mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration and overlooking the overtime fraud that was taking place. Sayegh claims to remind people of McKoy’s “relationship” with the disgraced former mayor. The video is titled, “A reminder from Andre Sayegh!”

Sayegh did not respond to multiple calls and a message for comment on Thursday.

“They just called me with my union rep and told me I’m terminated,” said Ledesma. “I overheard them say something about the Saturday incident that I had with Bill McKoy. I had my placard on my car. That’s the reason.”

Ledesma and McKoy engaged in an argument on the street on Saturday. McKoy appeared to confront him for stapling Mendez political signs on utility poles and trees. Municipal law prohibits signs on utility poles, trees, and other public structures, but the ordinance is inconsistently enforced. Both Mendez and McKoy campaigns put out competing videos of the incident.

Ledesma’s vehicle had the municipal government issued placard that states he’s on official business. As a license inspector, he uses his personal vehicle while on duty to deliver license certificates to businesses because the city lacks vehicles. He is paid a small amount every month for fuel, he said.

Ledesma does not work on the weekends. He mistakenly left the placard in the vehicle while installing the Mendez political signs. Other department employees said it’s a common mistake that occurs because the workers use their personal vehicles for city business.

Ledesma was hired in 2018 for the $33,000 inspector job.

Ledesma said he was never provided a legitimate reason for the firing. A termination letter signed by Oshin Castillo, who Sayegh appointed to run the Health and Human Services Department in 2019, does not state a reason for the firing.

Castillo’s letter states Ledesma is terminated as of end of business November 5.

“Employees have exactly the same right as any other citizen to join political organizations and participate in political activities, as long as they maintain a clear separation between their official responsibilities and their political affiliations,” states the city’s policy manual.

Castillo did not respond to calls for comments on Thursday.

Council members were disturbed at the Sayegh administration’s firing of Ledesma.

“I need to know what’s the reasoning behind it,” said council president Flavio Rivera. “I hope it’s not political retaliation.”

Ledesma had been in trouble with the city before. He had taken a trip to the Dominican Republic. He had overstayed and did not report to work. He said he had been injured in an accident. He presented the city with medical documents after returning to the U.S.

Rivera suggested the timing of the termination – just days after the incident involving the political signs on poles — raises questions.

“I had no idea of Mr. Ledesma’s firing. As the chair of the Personnel committee I was not informed of anyone being fired. I cannot comment on something I am not privy too,” said councilwoman Maritza Davila, chairwoman of the personnel committee. “If in fact it is true then this is serious. Mr. Ledesma states it was politically motivated then the administration will have to prove it wasn’t. No administration should fire anyone on political retaliation. The Mayor should know better he knows the city has been sued before for this.”

Inept and corrupt mayors have engaged in political retaliation over the years leading to lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlement payouts at taxpayers’ expense.

Sayegh, a loser in the 2014 mayoral race, experienced it firsthand when his friend, Anthony Fazzinga, who held the same inspector position as Ledesma, was terminated in an alleged case of political retaliation.

Fazzinga’s fault was that he worked on Sayegh’s campaign in the 2014 mayoral race. Sayegh came in second place in that race. Torres won the 2014 election.

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