Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Citizens

Well it appears as though Doug Palmer's "go to guy" has crossed a line.

Dennis Gonzales, the person who's held more titles in City Hall than the Yankees have won penants, may have just lost his favored status.

Back on May 15, a respected, thoughtful young Citizen by the name of Zachary Chester sent a letter to City Council requesting information on all the development projects that Mr. Gonzalez had been involved with during his multi-tenures as Housing and Development Director (acting or otherwise). The letter opens:

Dear President Pintella:

I am very disappointed by what I read in The Times newspaper on Sunday, May 13, 2007. I would like for this council to look into every redevelopment and development project that Mr. Dennis Gonzalez, Assistant Business Administrator and Acting Housing and Economic Development Director has worked on since his employment with the City of Trenton. I would like to know the outcome of each and every project he has been involved in.

Mr. President, I would like to have this information in writing within the next sixty (60) days.

Mr. Chester then goes on to ask for some specifics on the Trenton Town Center project.

As noted in the letter, the requests were made in response to a lengthy article published two days prior in a local paper which pointed to Mr. Gonzalez as being at least partly responsible for delays in the Trenton Town Center project. Mr. Gonzalez's reported responses were fairly typical: arrogant.

So Mr. Chester asks City Council (with copies to the Mayor, the Business Administrator and the Chief of Staff) do some looking into the situation and report back.

Of course no one from City Hall responds.

On August 15, Mr. Chester received a letter from Mr. Gonzalez. The letter is not sent on City of Trenton letterhead. The letter is sent from Citizen Gonzalez's home address which is just one block away from Citizen Chester's home. And the envelope was post-marked August 14...two weeks after the date on the letter.

The letter from "Citizen" Gonzalez reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Chester:

The purpose of this correspondence is to place you on notice that you are to cease and desist in making defamatory oral and written statements which express or imply that I have personally and/or in my various capacities as an appointed official of the City of Trenton engaged in unethical and/or criminal conduct. I consider your oral statements at Trenton City Council meetings in May, June and July of this calendar year demanding that the City Council investigate me as well as all projects with which I have been associated to constitute slander. In addition, our letter of May 15, 2007 addressed to City Council President Paul M. Pintella constitutes libel for the same reason set forth here as to your oral statements.

Any express or implicit accusations of wrongdoing on my part are absolutely 100% without merit. The deliberate and unsupported perpetuation of falsehoods by you has, and will, damage my reputation , and adversely affect my ability to make a living. I will hold you personally responsible for any and all damages including pecuniary.

You can avoid a lawsuit by making a direct and clear public apology before the City Council on August 16th stating in no uncertain terms that you are aware of no instance or facts which support any allegation of ethical and/or criminal conduct on my part. In addition, I demand that you place advertisements of no less than 1/2 page each in The Times of Trenton and The Trentonian with the same public apology to be published not later than August 31, 2007.

I will not compromise the demands set forth herein. I am able by virtue of my education to proceed with litigation before the Superior Court of the State of Jersey [sic] and, ultimately, before a Mercer County jury.

Most Sincerely,

Dennis Gonzalez

It is clear from this letter that Mr. Gonzalez has already acted as attorney, judge and jury when it comes to the imagined allegations and assertions by Mr. Chester. For all of his education and experience, Mr. Gonzalez seems to have overlooked a couple of basic facts.

Mr. Chester's letter of May 15 never alleges anything. He merely asks for information about any and all development and/or redevelopment project that Mr. Gonzalez has been involved int since he became a City employee.

While I may not have the benefit of Mr. Gonzalez's education, I don't think that Mr. Chester's letter constitutes libel.

Further, Mr. Gonzalez is a politically appointed public official. As such, he certainly must expect if not accept, a certain amount of criticism from the public.

The fact that Mr. Gonzalez has not presided over any sort of economic boom during his various stints in City Hall or at the ill-fated Trenton Economic Development Corporation does raise questions about his competency. If there are any lawsuits to be filed, it should be by the citizens of Trenton against Mr. Gonzalez for failing at his various high-level, well paid jobs.

And if Mr. Gonzalez really wants to go to war, will he be prepared to answer questions about the amount of time he was a City Employee and yet didn't live in the City?

For his part, Mr. Chester is sticking by his guns and has not apologized for the alleged slights.

Mr. Gonzalez should face the fact that it is past time for him to go. He needs to pack his carpetbag and move on.

And leave the good people of this city, like Citizen Chester, alone.


Anonymous said...

Very well put.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure that Dennis' actions constitute an abuse of power, inappropriate use of his office (doesn't matter that he did not use City letterhead) and at a minimum are an in violation of the new ethics policies. I would suggest that we as citizens all file individual complaints with the State Ethics Commission.

Mr. Clean said...

I hope Citizen Chester told Prince Dennis to go pound sand. Paranoid, are we, Prince Dennis? Maybe they ARE out to get you.

Old Mill Hill said...

As it was told to me, Mr. Chester spoke eloquently and passionately for about 5 minutes to a nearly silent room. The audience burst into a hearty round of spontaneous applause when he concluded.

He invited Citizen Gonzalez to go ahead and sue him because there would be no apology forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chester,
You are doing the City of Trenton a great service by standing up to the powers that be. There are many of us that applaud you and believe there should be more of your kind in our fine City.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the fine people of Trenton. For what you ask? For sending Mr. Gonzalez to Pemberton Township. His affect on us will no doubt have an affect for decades. One good turn deserves another. Perhaps we can send you something in return to show our appreciation, such as the next 100 55 Gallon Barrels of Toxic Waste we find dumped in our Beautiful Pinelands. I'd consider that an even trade. :-)

Anonymous said...

Suggest the New Jersey State Investigations would be more appropriate place to start.