Former Mayor Christine Dansereau is optimistic about Roselle’s future but she says she is disappointed by some of the people she worked with during her 14 years in public life, including Councilman John Fortuna and Senator Joseph P. Cryan.
Dansereau said Fortuna had been a conservative Republican before switching parties to run in the Democratic primary three years ago but he seems to have put principles aside as he runs for re-election and connects with people or groups he once shunned in order to gain benefits for himself.
After resident Beverly Edwards credited Fortuna with removing an unwanted tree from her property, the former mayor spoke about how that break in protocol was so unfair to other homeowners.
“Since when do we spend tax dollars to remove trees that are on private lawns?,” asked Dansereau. “A twenty four hour turn around removal of a tree is definitely suspect during election time, especially when the councilman is chair of the DPW committee and exercises power over decisions that might leave other citizens watching while the list is jumped. This in no way makes (Fortuna) a hero.”
“I’ve know him over 16 years, and he was a devout Republican for a long time,” said Dansereau of Fortuna. “He’s not a liberal. He was a Republican for a long time and a lot of those values have not disappeared.”
Dansereau said the conservative councilman harbors some extremely Trump-like positions.
Fortuna “absolutely believed that Covid was nothing more than political propaganda and refused initially to abide by the early restrictions,” said Dansereau. “He carried a mask and wore it only when forced too. There was no convincing him initially, and he’s on line A running for re-election.”
“He was skeptical about Covid but now he’s keeping his opinions to himself as Cryan attacks Holley for not forcing parents to vaccinate their children,” said Dansereau.
Dansereau said politics has made some big changes in Fortuna, but she has largely kept her opinions to herself.
Dansereau did blame Fortuna for undermining a longtime resident and valued volunteer after she took on a job as publicist for the borough.
“The most angry thing I said was about John Fortuna; How disappointed I was that I felt compelled to share the whole issue about terminating the public information officer on Facebook,” Dansereau said. “I spent a great deal of time with everybody, I presented all the reasons, her experience and what she did for free as a volunteer and John Fortuna only said ‘I don’t like her.’ He couldn’t speak to any real reasons.”
Critics believe Fortuna sought to profit by restoring a contract with the company he was involved with to replace Kathy Lloyd, the public information officer who was terminated.
“John Fortuna said he was only going to serve one term in office. He didn’t like the relationships he had with his colleagues and he definitely did not like Cryan,” said Dansereau. “He had a very specific, very dogmatic view of Joe Cryan, but now he’s kind of traded to get something for himself.”
Dansereau said Fortuna “would not even go into an office with Cryan. He campaigned very independently.”
Dansereau said she and Fortuna had big disagreements about immigration.
“He was furious when I made Roselle a sanctuary city through an executive order,” said Dansereau. “He also opposed the program we set up at the library so that undocumented people could get an ID.”
“He is very much conservative,” said Dansereau, but Fortuna is exhibiting some opportunistic tendencies as he runs for a second term on Column A, the slate led by Cryan.
Dansereau said Cryan was responsive to her requests from the mayor’s office but added that his “past history is disappointing because I have always been against abuse and for women’s rights.”
After learning about his use of government resources to pursue sexual fantasies and then abusing his power and influence among law enforcement authorities to inflict harm on a former girlfriend, Danseareau said, “I lost a little respect for Cryan.”
Cryan used his influence to get stalking, an indictable offense, charged against Karen Golding, as opposed to a lesser harassment charge, according to documents filed in Superior Court in Morristown.
Cryan denied that any relationship existed and portrayed the ex-girlfiend as some sort of crazed individual living in a fantasy world, until a New York Post investigative journalist revealed salacious evidence of a sexual relationship between Cryan and Golding that lasted from 2003-06, including that he impregnated her, assaulted her after she had an abortion in 2004, and that he cheated on her with other women.
Cryan has helped infuse Fortuna, and another freshman on the council, Brandon Bernier, with an inflated sense of ego.
“Sometimes it takes people five or ten years to realize that they are expendable, and to recognize that people who are higher up in the poitical machine are using them,” said Dansereau. “They have the big boys telling them how wonderful they are and they think they have a great future, but those relationships are only temporary.”
As for Bernier and Fortuna, Dansereau said, “they are in the process for themselves” a situation “that is more common than it is uncommon” but she called it “the reality of politics.”
Dansereau said, “What I hope happens, is they — whomever wins — they get focused back on the community.”
Since giving up her elected office, Dansereau said her viewpoint has changed. “You have a different perspective when you’re in the center, and people in politicas often get preoccupied with their egos.”
Fortune is being challenged in the primary election by Leonard Washington, a native of Roselle and alumnus of Abraham Clark High School who has been an information technology professional with over 20 years’ experience, currently employed as the IT Infrastructure and Security analyst for VDM Metals USA.
Washington is a co-founder of Bold Community Care Services, an organization that provides programs and services to individuals with disabilities. His wife, Courtney Washington, is president of the Roselle Board of Education.
In many ways, Washington is an exact opposite of Fortuna. His political views are more moderate and more in line with those of the community than his conservative foe.
Washington has been waging a personal, door to door campaign, shunning dirty money and maintaining his independence.