LINDEN, NJ — A resolution was passed by the Linden City Council authorizing and directing Linden Mayor Derek Armstead to file a criminal complaint against Councilman John Roman over an alleged criminal action that happened last year. Accused of trespassing, Roman accessed the city’s Department of Public Works Yard at a time when it was closed and he did not have the permission to be there. The resolution was passed April 21 and was approved on April 22.
“About a year ago, Roman went down to the Department of Public Works, climbed the fence while no one was there, where we have footage of him in the yard illegally,” Armstead told LocalSource on April 27. “He went to the back of a pickup truck, rearranged signs in the back of the truck, took pictures that would be favorable to his accusation and sent it to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.”
According to a past press release provided by Armstead, Roman entered the yard; searched for and located the DPW pickup truck, which contained campaign signs removed from a public right-of-way; and accessed the truck and shuffled the signs around, hiding signs belonging to Column C 7th Ward candidate Ralph Strano. Roman then reportedly took pictures of the signs, which became the basis for a letter state Sen. Nicholas Scutari sent to the New Jersey attorney general, asking for an investigation. Scutari is the Linden Democratic Party chairman.
Roman and Scutari accused Linden officials of removing signs for candidates aligned with Scutari, who is a bitter rival of Armstead. According to Armstead, city workers took down signs placed on public grounds regardless of whose name was on them. Roman is accused of having shuffled the signs to obscure those of his adversaries and expose only those affiliated with the party boss.
Armstead also mentioned that there weren’t just political signs in the truck but also signs for contractors, who had advertised on the side of the road in the right-of-way.
The video footage, obtained by Armstead and the city of Linden on May 29, 2019, captured Roman entering the facility, climbing on a truck and moving around signs that city work crews had removed from the public rights-of-way, where they had been placed without authorization, obstructing drivers’ sight lines.
“As a result of this, the council formed an investigation committee to see what happened,” Armstead said. “They subpoenaed him, and he refused to answer the subpoena. With that being said, our police chief would not file charges either. With the statute of limitations running out, the council directed me to file the complaint.”
So, after months of investigation and deliberation, the Linden City Council voted to recommend criminal charges against one of its own members, Roman, on April 21.
LocalSource spoke with Roman, who commented in his defense.
“The state took this case and declined to press charges,” said Roman on April 28. “The county didn’t press charges. The (police) chief of Linden said in a meeting he would not press charges against me. They sent me a subpoena and I sent a quash; I haven’t heard from them since. Which means it’s clear this is political. It’s because my reelection is on July 7, and it’s because I know the truth about Armstead and his ‘dealings.’
“That’s why he’s doing anything he can to defame me, and he is willing to open up the taxpayers to massive lawsuits to attack his enemies, who stand up against his corrupt practices.”