Dominican Tiff Grows Strident

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- In a duel of documents, Paterson Dominican leaders on Thursday showed no signs of resolving their dispute over an effort to throw their community's support behind a single candidate for mayor next spring.

At issue is Councilman Rigo Rodriguez's refusal to comply with a decision by the Dominican Council of Paterson to back Maria Teresa Feliciano for mayor, a choice made after a two-month evaluation of three mayoral hopefuls that included Rodriguez.

Members of the Dominican Council, in a news conference Thursday, produced agreements Rodriguez signed saying he would support the candidate picked by the group. Not only did they wave copies of the agreements Rodriguez signed, they also projected enlarged images of the documents on a large video screen.

Ramon Pagan, a Dominican Council member, told the crowd that Rodriguez had denied agreeing to the group's selection process.

"It's self-explanatory," Pagan said, holding one of the documents, as he rebutted the councilman's denial.

Rodriguez is not backing down. Interviewed at his auto parts store on Grand Street, the councilman offered another document -- an agreement to the council's evaluation scoring system that was signed by Feliciano and a third candidate, Miguel Diaz. The space for Rodriguez's name was blank.

"I would not sign off because I knew it was not a fair selection," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez acknowledged signing other documents during earlier phases of the screening process. "It gradually showed signals of being partial," he said, explaining why he pulled away from the screening.

Rodriguez and the council leaders said they agreed that it was important not to have multiple Dominicans run for mayor in May because it would dilute their growing political power.

City political leaders say that the chances of electing a Dominican would improve immensely if either Rodriguez or Feliciano dropped out of the race. The field in the mayoral election already has about 12 possible candidates.

Aside from Pagan, other members of the Dominican Council are Pedro Rodriguez, Lucilo Santos, Elsa Mantilla and Iris Tejada. …