With the ink on Judge Linda Feinberg’s ruling that Police Director Joseph Santiago must leave office permanently by April 24 barely even dry, already the evil wheels of politics are spinning as Mayor Douglas H. Palmer seeks to circumvent his worst defeat by having his own adversaries on City Council do his bidding, and amend the city’s residency ordinance.
After Judge Feinberg invalidated the city’s residency waiver provisions – which were never used a single time for 40 years – she left open the door for City Council to amend the very law they have so staunchly defended so that a waiver could be granted to Mr. Santiago, providing an opportunity for him to retake his vacated office.
While Mayor Palmer’s puppets – like Council President Paul Pintella – have already signified their openness to performing such a heinously political legislative move, it seems at least two other, cooler council heads have other ideas.
“We’re not going to keep changing laws to provide exceptions for certain individuals who have the mayor’s favor, especially when there have been over 20 folks who’ve been fired for not living in the city while they work here,” said Councilman Jim Coston to the Times of Trenton today.
Councilman and residency supporter Manny Segura also balked at Mr. Pintella’s rush to get the amendment done for Mayor Palmer, saying to the Times that he saw no urgency in the matter.
It is certainly good to see the sentiments of these two, considering it is likely that both councilwomen Cordelia Staton and Annette Lartigue will support such an amendment.
Ms. Staton is a known Palmer delator, and Ms. Lartigue has constantly hinted at amending the ordinance after the Santiago affair was over.
She has also been seen meeting with both Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago privately during the lawsuit, around the time Ms. Lartigue’s husband was promoted to director of the Trenton Housing Authority.
If the unthinkable or possibly likely scenario begins to unfold, those council members and residency amendment supporters need to be called out, for they will truly be harming the public interest.
They will have wasted hundreds of thousands of city dollars in legal fees, all spent on a court case that would have never happened had they already amended the law.
And they will have totally subverted the power of a 40-year-old ordinance that was enacted by and has the support of a majority of residents within the city.
They will have dirtied the very laws that rule this city by creating a legal means for city politicians to enforce laws against some employees while sparing others, destroying public confidence in the rule of law in Trenton and beyond.
For all of its problems the original waiver provision was so complicated and convoluted it was likely a waiver would never have been granted, but state-prescribed waiver provisions seem more open to political meddling, and there is more of that stuff in Trenton than anywhere, save maybe Atlantic City.
Let them know there is no need to carve exceptions to time-honored rules for Mayor Palmer’s most favored employees.
Write a letter, pick up the phone, or type out an e-mail.
Residents of Trenton need to make it known to their council members that such a move is unacceptable.