A shadowy, perennial candidate is waging her fourth election campaign in just five years but some residents who were among the Councilwoman’s closest connections inside Roselle Borough Hall now say she is a blight on the community.
After leaving Jersey City in the wake of two foreclosure lawsuits, Denise Wilkerson moved to Roselle and got elected to represent the First Ward on the Borough Council before she ran for an at-large seat on a 2019 ticket headed by then-incumbent Mayor Christine Dansereau.
When Dansereau resigned, due to her frustration with the political antics of Wilkerson and others, the Councilwoman ran to replace her but she was soundly defeated by Donald Shaw.
Wilkerson is waging her fourth election campaign in just five years as she seeks re-election in a race that pits the diabolical interloper against longtime community activist Brandis Puryear, a lifelong Roselle resident who is a sergeant-detective on the Irvington Police Department.
There is a trail of public documents showing that Wilkerson is financially irresponsible, from court records indicating that she failed to comply with mortgage obligations to filings suggesting that she failed to pay taxes on a number of occasions.
Rather than admitting to her financial hardship, Wilkerson puts on airs by dishonestly claiming that she is a successful business executive. These and other falsehoods have caused a rift between Wilkerson and some former political allies.
Wilkerson claims to own a public relations agency but journalists say that the enterprise seems defunct, and there are no signs of life at the Robert Scott agency, Wilkerson’s bogus PR firm headquartered in a shared office space at the NJ Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Hudson County.
Wilkerson tries to present herself as an advocate for Black women but two such people are suing her.
Adrian Williams filed a lawsuit against Wilkerson and Councilman Brandon Bernier that alleged the politicians harassed her and violated her civil rights.
In another lawsuit, Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson alleged that Wilkerson was part of a conspiracy to silence her about fiscal chicanery in the borough and illegally impeded her ability to perform duties of her elected office that pertain to public safety issues.
“Roselle’s bemusing attempts to silence Councilwoman Johnson and wrongfully proscribe her from performing her civic duties has and will continue to be counterproductive to the best interests of all of Roselle’s residents,” said Johnson’s attorney Patrick P. Toscano, Jr.
“She will not be illegally silenced by anyone,” said Toscano. “Anyone who knows the Councilwoman and how profoundly she takes her municipal responsibilities and duties should know that by now.”
Among Wilkerson’s biggest critics is her one-time running mate, former Mayor Christine Dansereau, who faults Wilkerson for backbiting, taking credit for work others did on the library, and being unnecessarily cruel.
“The disappointment is tremendous,” said Dansereau, who said Wilkerson’s antics contributed to her decision to resign.
“There are always people that are in it fundamentally for themselves and wouldn’t give two shits about anyone else,” said Dansereau.
Dansereau said the lack of concern is reflected in what became of a successful housing improvement program she implemented.
“We were having code violations, we were having fires because people were not getting checked on all this stuff,” said the former mayor, who enacted an ordinance to have landlords register and pay a fee that would finance inspections and code enforcement.
“We made a quarter-million dollars, the next year there was $350,000,” said Dansereau, who faults Wilkerson and Shaw for having allowed the program to languish. “Now, they are not sending the letters, they are not collecting the money, they are not getting the code enforcement.”
Dansereau said another indicator of the Councilwoman’s misplaced priorities is how she tried to exploit a non-profit group that raised funds to support families in distress, after being impacted by hurricanes or fires.
“Denise Wilkerson wanted to make a spectacle handing out big checks to families and I was not going to have any of that,” said Dansereau, who said it would be wrong to exploit people during their time of tragedy. “When volunteers made up bags for the needy, Denise Wilkerson would come with (state Senator) Joe Cryan to take pictures and leave.”
Since then, Dansereau said the nonprofit organization has fallen into disuse “and they are not doing anything with it.”
Most unforgivable, according to Dansereau, was the way Wilkerson and her political allies shafted a local resident who had given dedicated service, simply to award political patronage to an out-of-town company associated with Cryan.
community as a dedicated public information official, died in April, shortly after being fired by Council President Denise Wilkerson.
Some say Lloyd’s death was a result of heartbreak.
Wilkerson engineered the governing body’s abrupt termination of Lloyd’s contract by a 4-2 vote during a contentious Borough Council meeting in January.
Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson, who voted against the resolution with Councilman Richard Villeda, said the council’s decision to fire Lloyd revealed a broken system of political gamesmanship.
Lloyd’s annual compensation was $30,000 but the Borough Council awarded a contract to Jaffe Communications, Inc. to provide public information consulting services for $35,000 per year.
What a courageous young woman and they were just so callous about getting rid of her,” said Dansereau.
Of Wilkerson, Dansereau said, “She was like a freight train yelling and screaming at you if she didn’t like your opinion.”