City Council folded under pressure Tuesday night, when Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and a crowd of cronies marched into council chambers and bullied and dealed their way through the confirmation of new police director, convicted felon, and residency violator Irving Bradley Jr.
The council’s “Gang of Four” broke into splinters, with former stalwart Gino Melone breaking for the bad guys in voting to confirm Mr. Bradley. Palmer cronies Annette Lartigue, Paul Pintella, and Cordelia Staton also voted to confirm the director.
The confirmation came despite a preponderance of evidence – nearly 12 months’ worth – that demonstrated that from the beginning of his employment, Mr. Bradley was in violation of the city’s residency ordinance. That city law requires employees to maintain a bona fide, primary residence within Trenton city limits.
First, Mr. Bradley openly admitted that he didn’t even have a residence in Trenton, and even when he established a secondary residence in Trenton, he was caught on camera with a city vehicle 40 miles to the north, at his family residence in Rahway.
Again, just over three weeks ago, he was caught at the same residence by Trenton residents. Council members were fully aware of this, yet not a single member from either side of the pro-Palmer and anti-Palmer fault line decided to question the director over where his family lives.
The end result is that Trenton taxpayers will once again be on the hook, when a lawsuit similar to the one that ousted the previous police director is filed in the coming days. With that suit city taxpayers will again be left on the short side of things, because their government cannot follow the simplest of laws.
In retrospect, Tuesday’s council meeting took on an almost circus-like atmosphere. Flyers were apparently put out in the West Ward of the city, urging residents to show up to support an unnamed director. They showed up in droves, and made their ignorance known as they cheered for a wasteful, arrogant, and vindictice mayor hellbent on screwing over the residents and the City Council that had recently defeated him.
He succeeded, in mysteriously convincing a formerly strong Councilman Melone to switch to a positive vote, and getting a majority of council to confirm a controversial, residency-breaking, convicted felon to Trenton’s highest law enforcement position.
During the entire meeting, Mayor Palmer was his usual self, showing an amazing ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth.
He said he was appointing a director, after only minutes earlier complaining that the city’s residency ordinance prevented him from doing so. He attacked residents that had conducted their own residency investigations of public officials, while excusing the same activities, when performed by contractors hired by his own administration.
When asked by Councilman Manny Segura about why the mayor allowed nearly $300,000 in taxpayer funds to be wasted on lawyers in an ultimately futile residency battle, Mayor Palmer blamed council for suing him to enforce the residency law, instead of accepting his own blame in violating the same law.
But while Mayor Palmer proved himself to be Tuesday’s greatest actor, the entity that deserves the most blame for this debacle is City Council.
Not a single member asked the appointee about where his family resides, despite the insane and lengthy residency affair that occurred over the course of the prior 10 months, which demonstrated that such information is crucial to any residency determination.
And because of such legislative forgetfulness, Trenton will likely now face another lawsuit, at a time when the city can ill afford such an unnecessary expenditure.