Call it a case of sour grapes.
Mayor Douglas H. Palmer lashed out at City Council Friday after the body failed to renew the contract of the mayor’s gang consultant and effectively ended the tenure of ex-Newark cop Barry Colicelli, both denying him his annual $91,000 paycheck and putting a stop to the existence of a patronage position that had no built-in accountability or benchmarks.
Mayor Palmer – himself more of a skilled politician than a skilled leader – naturally began spinning the matter as a case of the council playing politics, rather than a case of City Council standing up for the interests of city residents and their precious tax dollars, which were fleeing the city’s borders annually in the bank account of a non-resident, Mr. Colicelli.
“They are playing politics with public safety,” Palmer said at a press conference. “This is politics at the worst level.”
Actually, the person who was playing politics was Mayor Palmer himself, after he created the position out of thin air, despite the presence of numerous Trenton Police Department officials with skills equal or greater than Mr. Colicelli’s.
The gang czar was only brought in and given a city contract because of his affinity to Police Director Joseph Santiago, who worked with Mr. Colicelli under the corrupt Sharpe James administration up in Newark.
But those indictments presently dogging Mr. James demonstrate a group of individuals who showed blatant disregard of the public trust that seems to have moved from Newark to Trenton with the arrival of Mr. Santiago and Mr. Colicelli.
The irresponsible manner in which the Request for Proposal was conducted – along with the ambiguous nature of Mr. Colicelli’s payment vouchers – point to a phantom position custom-made to give Mr. Santiago’s Newark buddy another income source.
They paint a picture of a job in which Mr. Colicelli could do as he pleased, without oversight or tangible results.
City Council decapitated part of that money and corruption trail Thursday by ending Mr. Colicelli’s expensive and suspicious relationship with the city, in which he received both thousands of dollars, a city vehicle, a city cell phone, and a city office, in a contract with little or no controls or oversight.
That kind of use of public funds is absolutely unacceptable in a city in a financial crisis, which should try and do as much in-house work as possible.
That is a better plan than constantly bringing in outside help in that has neither a stake in the community nor have any incentive to reinvest their compensation in our community.
Mayor Palmer is doing what he does best, and that’s playing politics, but no matter how much spin comes out of the corridors of City Hall, in this case, City Council did the right thing by ending Mr. Colicelli’s relationship with the city.