Differences in residency cases

The City of Trenton is handling the residency case of the current police director, Irving Bradley Jr., far differently than it handled the residency case of former director Joseph Santiago, who was eventually ousted over the matter.

Of course, the facts of each case are a little different, in that Mr. Santiago, with the open support of city Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, readily admitted that he was not a city resident while he claimed that some unknown power bestowed upon Mayor Palmer allowed him to live in violation of the law.

But Mr. Bradley, who rents an apartment in Trenton but occupies a family home in Rahway, claims that he is a full-time resident of Trenton.  That claim comes despite both his family’s presence in Rahway and the fact that courts have usually construed the family home to be a person’s bona fide residence.

The complaints against the two, which were filed by a group of city residents including me, are nearly the same.  That makes the significant differences in the routes of defense chosen by the city somewhat peculiar.

First off, the city is allowing its in-house counsel and Law Department director, Denise Lyles, to handle the case in terms of filing briefs and arguing Mr. Bradley’s case to Superior Cort Judge Linda Feinberg.  When it came to Mr. Santiago’s ultimately unsuccessful defense, the city retained several expensive defense attorneys, some of whom never even filed a meaningful brief or spoke in court.

Also, it appears that the city has been fighting a series of delaying battles in the early action, initially by challenging the authenticity of tax and real estate documents demonstrating that Mr. Bradley is indeed the owner of the family home in Rahway.  There is little dispute that Mr. Bradley owns the home there, making the city’s attention to the authenticity of the documents, which are real, somewhat frivolous.

Finally, court documents filed recently by plaintiffs’ counsel paint a recent city motion for dismissal as another frivolous action, with the city having yet to raise any significant counterpoints to the complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs.

These delaying actions are very different from what the city saw during the Santiago saga, in which the city filed counterpoint after counterpoint to the complaint they faced, even seeking to have the city’s entire residency ordinance invalidated.

Compare that to Mr. Bradley’s case, in which the city is using less high-powered legal expertise and does not appear to be diligently offering legal arguments in favor of the director’s living arrangements.  Some might say it doesn’t look like the city is very confident in Mr. Bradley’s legal prospects, although the city will just have to wait and see once the gets matter gets into a courtroom next year.

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