Health and human services director Oshin Castillo, who is promoting mayor Andre Sayegh’s Financial Empowerment Center, an initiative aimed at providing residents one-on-one financial counseling to improve their credit worthiness, was delinquent in paying her own bills.
Castillo was delinquent in paying $7,878 for “educational services rendered” by Fairleigh Dickinson University, according to court records. She had attended the school in Teaneck after high school, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Communications.
Fairleigh Dickinson University ultimately obtained a judgment against Castillo for $9,000, which included interest and attorney fee on top of the principal, in August 2017. The school managed to collect $1,840 by levying Castillo’s TD Bank account in October 2019.
“The matter has been taken care of. I have made full payments on that already,” said Castillo on Monday morning. “That’s the school I went to. Who doesn’t owe stuff to school? That’s exactly what the Financial Empowerment Center is for to help people not fall into debt. It’s the counseling that will help you. This program is exactly for people who went through something like I did. And that’s why I’m promoting it.”
Castillo said she took care of the payments few months ago.
Philip A. Kahn, attorney for Fairleigh Dickinson University, who secured the judgment against Castillo, did not respond to an email for comments for this story.
Castillo never publicly disclosed the information that she had been delinquent in making payments on her debt. She claimed she was waiting to share the story at the launch of the Financial Empowerment Center.
Asked if he saw the irony of Castillo promoting the financial counseling program, Sayegh said, “That can make an argument that there are people who need this program.” She could have used the program when she was younger, he said.
Castillo promoted the Financial Empowerment Center program during Sayegh’s state of the city speech late last month.
“She’s not a bad messenger for the program,” said the mayor. “It’s about financial empowerment. She’s empowered herself, if she’s resolved her issues. If there was a financial empowerment center, she may have been able to address it earlier.”
Castillo never disclosed her delinquent payment issue to Sayegh. Sayegh only learned about it after the Paterson Times began inquiring about the matter.
“This program is not about Oshin Castillo. This program is about Paterson residents who could use financial counseling,” said Sayegh.
Sayegh said she is overseeing the Financial Empowerment Center because she is the director of health and human services. Sayegh hired her for the $92,000 position in August 2019. Before that she worked as an aide to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Prior to that she worked as an administrative secretary at a local doctor’s office. Before that she worked as a teller at TD Bank branch in Wayne.
Castillo has served as a Board of Education member since 2016. She became one of the youngest school board presidents in Paterson history in 2018. She was 26 at the time.
The Financial Empowerment Center will be run by the United Way of Passaic County out of Center City Mall, said Castillo.
Sayegh picked up the Financial Empowerment Center idea from attending former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bootcamp for mayors. His administration obtained a $150,000 grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. Grant funding will support the implementation and operation of the Financial Empowerment Center for the first 15 months.
Castillo said the program will launch in May.
Asked if she plans to use the services of the Financial Empowerment Center, which will be open for all residents, she said, “A hundred percent. I’ll probably be the first person to try it out.”
Email: [email protected]