Mayor Andre Sayegh and his archrival councilman Alex Mendez were involved in an altercation over a table at the Paterson Police Benevolent Association (PBA) fundraiser last weekend.
Sources said the altercation occurred at The Grove in Cedar Grove last Saturday. Sayegh and Mendez were among more than 500 people to attend the police fundraiser.
Sayegh was sitting at table 27 at the event. Mendez was told he was at table 27 as well.
Mendez arrived at and sat at the table. Sayegh told him he had to move. Mendez said he sent his friend Omar Ledesma to double check if he was at the correct table.
“If it’s your table, I’ll move. If it’s my table, you have to get your table,” Mendez recalled saying. “He [Sayegh] told me, oh no, you got to move now, it’s my table. He started raising his voice, ‘You’re going to jail. You’re going to jail.’”
Three sources, not associated with either belligerent party, said the episode was embarrassing. One city official walked away as the scene unfolded out of embarrassment.
“It was a misunderstanding. He happened to use some vulgar language and I just had to remind him he is facing criminal charges,” said Sayegh. “Someone facing criminal charges shouldn’t be so obscene with the language.” Mendez has been indicted on election fraud charges, but has denied the charges.
Sayegh said Mendez used the f-word and the a-word.
“I don’t recall using that,” said Mendez. “I don’t recall cursing at him.”
Mendez said Sayegh tried to “intimidate” him. He said Sayegh tried to provoke him. Both men denied the episode the was escalating into a physical confrontation.
Turned out Sayegh was sitting at the wrong table. Sayegh said he was never given a table number. Mendez said the woman, who directed people to their tables, appeared as the dispute unfolded, and told Sayegh he was at table 25.
“You’re loser. You don’t even know where you are sitting. That’s how lost you are,” said Mendez of Sayegh. “He looked like a fool because he had to move to a table on the other side.”
Mendez said the venue was packed and had as many as 700 people last Saturday night.
Mendez and Sayegh battled each other for the mayor’s seat in 2018. Both men are expected to face each other in the 2022 mayoral race.