So, Mayor Palmer pitched a fit in front of City Council Tuesday evening, daring them to vote to terminate Police Director Joe Santiago for non-residency and vowing to "keep him" anyway.
The Mayor seems to think that the fact that the Santiago family was threatened, received "pornography" in the mail and may have had someone trespass on their property is reason enough to allow this questionable, if not illegal, "waiver."
Besides the amnesia over his own words of several years ago, the Mayor seems to be overlooking a couple of very simple facts.
Mr. Santiago is a career law enforcement professional. If he doesn't know and accept the risks that come with the job, he should retire. And, frankly, the Police Director has been quoted as saying that his family comes above all and everyone else.
So, if the Director's family is "first, second and third" on his list of priorities, that makes Trenton number four on his list at best! Can he really be the best choice to lead our Police Department then?
Additionally, Mr. Santiago and Mayor Palmer were fully cognizant of the residency requirements of the job when the appointment was made and accepted.
Mr. Santiago made frequent comments about seeking a suitable home here, resided at the Trenton Marriott for awhile (and do we know who actually paid for that choice?) and then allegedly had residences at the Grand Court Villas (aka Cigar Factory) and later with his then assistant, Abe Hemsey. Suddenly, it became important and acceptable for Mr. Santiago to reside elsewhere other than Trenton?
The contradictions and deceits abound.
Santiago was going to move here, but the market changed and he could "no longer afford" to buy a house in town? Well, maybe not if it was only going to be a "second home" to hold off the critics. Certainly he could have afforded Trenton by disinvest himself of his Morris County property.
And while we're crying "poor" let us not forget that this is a man being paid over $100,000 per year by the City (not counting a $25,000 stipend, free cars, gas, etc.) and collecting a full pension from 30 years as a cop.
If he can't afford to live in Trenton, maybe he should have applied for some of the subsidized housing opportunities the Palmer administration has been so fond of creating!
As for the Mayor, it is painfully obvious that he does not accept or uphold the very laws of the City he was elected to serve. Otherwise he wouldn't so readily make these arbitrary (and possibly illegal) decisions to circumvent City Ordinances when and for whom it pleases him.
The residency issue is not just about Joe Santiago.
It is not about whether the Police Unions are happy with the administration and it's appointed leadership of the department.
The residency issue is about a Mayor who has gotten so mad with power and position that he has forgotten all about the reasons for civil service rules; integrity; accountability and fair play. It's about circumventing those rules and regulations for political expediency (as in the case about the newly appointed Communications Director, Irv Bradley who not only has a police record, but is also a non-city resident). It's about violating the very Civil Service rules intended to remove the politics from Government jobs and provide equal opportunities to all qualified candidates, not just friends and friends of friends.
Mayor Palmer is worried about how Trenton will be perceived if Joe Santiago is forced out (remember, he was forced out of the State Police before he came to Trenton). Just how does Mayor Palmer, the self-important President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and admitted campaign co-chair for a high-profile Presidential Candidate, think our city is perceived now?
Trenton is a broke and broken, dysfunctional and dyspeptic example of a once great city. We continue to suffer under the despotic rule of a Mayor who lacks the integrity and enlightenment to admit when he is wrong.
Instead of making this personal, the Mayor should admit that mistakes have been made and policies have been broken and/or ignored. Only then can he hope to engage his detractors in a meaningful and positive way.
Until he admits that he is wrong in this matter, Mayor Palmer will never be perceived as more than another "first" that dragged his city into last place.
Now that is something to cry about.