The Assistant Business Administrator and former acting Housing and Economic Development Director of the Douglas H. Palmer administration has threatened a city resident with a lawsuit and demanded half-page apologies in the city’s newspapers after the resident questioned the official’s performance of his paid city job.
The lawsuit threat to West Ward resident Zach Chester came from Assistant Business Administrator Dennis Gonzalez, after Mr. Chester repeatedly asked the City Council to use their legal power to investigate numerous failed or delayed redevelopment projects in the city that were the responsibility of Mr. Gonzalez.
Mr. Chester responded publicly to Mr. Gonzalez’s threat of a lawsuit in front of City Council Thursday, receiving a thunderous applause from a group of 20 residents gathered at City Hall for the meeting.
“Mr. Gonzalez is a public official, and I am a concerned citizen,” said Mr. Chester. “Because, as a concerned citizen, I asked the City Council to look into Mr. Gonzalez’s performance as public official, he is now trying to take away my rights.”
Despite Mr. Gonzalez’s position that Mr. Chester made comments expressing or implying criminal and unethical behaviour on the part of Mr. Chester, a review of minutes from the past meetings and personal experience show that Mr. Chester was only asking for scrutiny of the performance of an appointed public official.
Mr. Gonzalez, as a public official, is open to this scrutiny, according to legal sources familiar with the subject.
Mr. Chester – who grew up in a housing project in Trenton and returned to make a difference in the welfare of the city – said Mr. Gonzalez had picked the wrong man to try and intimidate into silence.
“If you want to sue me, then sue me,” said Mr. Chester. “If there is nothing to hide, then settle this in court.”
Mr. Gonzalez had been at the center of several delayed or failed development projects within the city, and has been very secretive about the project’s problems.
He has repeatedly refused comment in the local media and even responded to an Open Public Records Request from Alysia Welch-Chester about the stalled Trenton Town Center project by asking for $450 in billed overtime costs for his extra work to gather the data.
Touted by city officials as important projects in Trenton’s future, several of the projects have never even gotten to the construction stage, with only the Broad Street Bank building coming to fruition under Mr. Gonzalez’s guidance.
Residents haven’t even moved into that project yet, which had an original move-in date of early 2007.