The general feeling of glee on the part of many Trentonians following last week’s Appellate Division ruling that former Police Director Joseph Santiago must indeed pack his bags and get out of town was to some degree tainted by the portion of the decision that gives the embattled director 75 days to “transition” the department’s leadership and get out of town.
Part of that sentiment comes from the fact that this transition period feels just like the similar but shorter period granted earlier in the year by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg, who originally ruled that Mr. Santiago had to leave Trenton because of his violation of the city’s residency ordinance.
In a perfect world it could be admitted that yes, a police leader kicked out of office does deserve time to put together a transition process and help find a transition leader to take over the reins of the department.
But Trenton does not exist in such a perfect world.
This 75 days does not do much besides give “Director Chaos” a chance to wreak more havoc on the Trenton Police Department and give his master, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, time to himself from suffering worst political defeat as a public official by pulling off some sort of scam to save Mr. Santiago’s position.
With that being understood, it follows that the body that could have nipped this whole thing in the bud from the very beginning – City Council – could quickly regain any lost face by doing what it should from the very beginning: remove Mr. Santiago from office through the body’s statutory powers as the legislative organ of the city.
Doing so would require the support of at least five of the seven members, who could give Mr. Santiago a dismissal hearing and then remove the man from Trenton.
That would provide the city and its police department with a much more beneficial type of transition that would simultaneously protect the department from any more of Mr. Santiago’s highly questionable organizational moves while allowing the entire city to move beyond the incredibly embarrassing Santiago residency affair.