With a vote of 6-0 and one abstention (Council President Paul Pintella), Trenton's City Council voted last night to have the Mayor enforce the city's residency ordinance as it pertains to Police Director Joseph Santiago. The Mayor was given seven days to notify Council of his compliance with their "respectful" request.
For his part, Mayor Palmer reacted in his typically child-like manner.
Times reporter Eva Loayza quoted the Mayor in an article in this morning's edition:
"Respectfully, that resolution is not going to carry weight with me nor will I fire him because he has legal standing, he has a waiver," said Palmer, who has repeatedly said he had the right under the ordinance to grant Santiago a waiver.
"I am not going to do their dirty work. If they want to fire him, let them do it," said Palmer.
What happened to the Doug Palmer who dismissed charges that city council was his personal rubber stamp? Now that a majority voted and voted against him, their opinions no longer "carry weight" with him?
What happened to wanting a council and administration that showed they could work together to get things done? Now that he isn't getting his way, he's saying "let them do it."
There are a lot of facets to this Santiago/residency issue. Many hours have been spent discussing and debating the situation...on the front stoop and elsewhere.
The simple fact of the matter is, there is a law currently on the books and in effect. That law has been applied against employees from time to time in a very inconsistent (and some might say selective/vindictive) manner. To many, ourselves included, the current reading of the ordinance does not allow for the granting of any waivers once an individual accepts a position with the city.
And since the Mayor steadfastly disagrees, it will be up to the courts to decide who's right. And unfortunately, it is going to cost the city and us taxpayers money to prove or disprove the Mayor's "belief." Money, that we obviously don't have.
As a city, maybe we should continue to discuss the merits of residency requirements for city employees. But in the meantime, there are many other concerns we need to deal with. For now, the residency ordinance is what it is; the law is the law.
Contrary to what Mr. Palmer may think, the City of Trenton is not his personal kingdom. He is not an emperor. He is not above the law (and neither is Mr. Santiago).
The thinking members of city council get it.
It's about time the Mayor does too.