Saturday, February 09, 2008



Doug Palmer and Joe Santiago pitched a fit on Friday, the day after City Council voted 4-2-1 to not approve a contract with On Target Law Enforcement and Security Consultants/Barry Colicelli for services. In true Palmer fashion, charges of “playing politics” were made along with accusations compromising “public safety.”

Way to go. Don’t accept defeat gracefully. Rather stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy (just what Trenton needs more of) rather than dealing with some basic facts.

Fact 1: Mr.Colicelli was retained as a consultant. Normal business practices dictate that consultants provide a thorough accounting of their time and activities in order to be paid. Judging from the invoices we’ve seen and that were published on the Trenton Facts website, Mr. Colicelli did not do this.

Fact 2: As a consultant, Mr. Colicelli may have had a hand in initiating some valid programs. The argument that he must be retained indefinitely for the programs and initiatives to move forward is ridiculous. Part and parcel of his work from the outset should have been for him to get things started and show others what they need to know to keep it going. Councilman Segura said it in Saturday morning’s Times: “If that didn’t happen, then he wasn’t a real good consultant.”

Fact 3: Mr. Colicelli is not irreplaceable. The statements made by Chief of Staff Renee Haynes and echoed by Palmer and Santiago that no one person could do what Colicelli does are patently false. The city of Trenton had a very knowledgeable gang intelligence unit prior to Mr. Colicelli’s arrival. And while Mr. Colicelli may have expanded the database and helped network the personnel and information with other agencies, that doesn’t all have to disappear because the contract wasn’t renewed. (If it does, see the point above.)

Fact 4: To suggest, as Mayor Palmer did, that it would take eight people to do what Mr. Colicelli did is ridiculous. Colicelli went to meetings. There are any number of people who also attended those meetings who have at least as much expertise, more local knowledge and the dedication to their jobs and purpose to pick up any slack. And for those that are city employees, if they aren’t able to incorporate the various initiatives and cooperative programs into their duties, maybe we need to look at their suitability for the positions they hold. (Would be ideal for a Deputy Police Chief, but we don’t have any of those anymore, do we).

Fact 5: Chief of Staff Haynes asserted during the Council conference session that preceded Thursday night’s vote that Mr. Colicelli’s services were needed because Council and the public have demanded that Trenton maximize the number of police on the street. This was an absurd statement in the extreme. Any rational person understands that it would be a member or members of the command staff, not street officers, who would most naturally take over the duties of the former consultant. We have very talented and experienced Captains who are more than capable and knowledgeable enough to do incorporate Mr. Colicelli’s role into their own jobs. This is a management problem, not a need for a consultant.

Fact 6: After three years of lucrative consulting contracts with the City, still doesn’t have a grasp of the geography of and locations in and around town. He spoke the other night of working with the “Boys and Girls Clubs of America over on South Clinton Avenue.”
It’s the Boys and Girls Clubs of Trenton and Mercer County and it’s been located on Centre Street for over 50 years. Later on, when asked by Councilwoman Lartigue if he’d done any work at “Holland Middle School” Colicelli said “No.” He went on to explain that he was working with students at Dunn, and the High School. When it was pointed out that “Holland Middle School” was actually Trenton Central High West, Colicelli had to ask the schools security chief Howard White “if that was where [they] were the other day.” Is it too much to expect from such an involved individual to have a better handle on the places and names of the institutions he’s supposedly working so closely with?

Fact 7: As part of the prior contracts, Mr. Colicelli was to be provided a car, computer, mobile phone and office. The public and various members of City Council questioned this additional expense to the taxpayers considering the financial state of the city.

Fact 8: There are some real and serious questions pertaining to the legalities of Mr. Colicelli’s contracts. The most recent contract with the city ran from December 15, 2006 and expired December 14, 2007. The contract wasn’t signed until March 16, 2007. Yet Mr. Colicelli submitted invoices for both January and February of 2007. This indicates that he did work for two months, presumably still had use of city provided car, cell phone computer and office, even though he was not under contract. Did he know he would be paid; that is was Colicelli somehow “assured” that a contract would be approved?
Fact 9: Mr. Colicelli’s assertion that his services to the city were actually worth $144,000 are interesting. If we divide that figure by the $75 per hour billing rate, it comes out to 1920 hours. That would be the equivalent of a full-time job. A job Mr. Colicelli could not get with the city unless he was a bona fide resident. Could this have been another attempt to skirt the city’s residency requirement for the benefit of a Santiago crony?

These are the items which needed to be considered before awarding another contract to Mr. Colicelli. And at least four of the City Council members understood that and made up their minds based upon their understanding of these facts, the law and Trenton’s financial status.

As for Mr. Palmer’s tantrum: it’s just more hooey from our city’s part-time, absentee “leader.” He didn’t get his way. He has some egg on his face, and he needs to spin the situation around to “blame” others for his own, ultimate failings. It’s always “a mandate from the people” when things go Palmer’s way, but “it’s politics” when they don’t.

Why isn’t it “politics” when Councilman Pintella, presiding over Thursday’s conference session, offered that Council should give the Mayor anything he wants? Seems to us that is a violation of one of the basic Parliamentary precepts: the chair of the meeting should refrain from offering personal opinions while wielding the gavel. Unfortunately, it is all too apparent that Mr. Pintella serves the Mayor and not the people of Trenton.

Why isn’t it “politics” when, during the portion of the conference session when “the public” was allowed to ask questions directly pertaining to the Colicelli contract that the Council President allowed Mr. Santiago to speak? Mr. Santiago, who stated on the record that he was not “speaking as Police Director” was allowed to go ahead of city resident Rafael Valentin. Mr. Santiago, in case you forgot, is not a resident of Trenton and if he’s not speaking as the Police Director (which he had already done earlier in the proceedings), should have deferred to Mr. Valentin and any other residents.

Why isn’t it “politics” when Chief of Staff Haynes and Council President Pintella improperly interrupted Council’s vote Thursday night. Since it was obvious the vote wasn’t going to go the Administration’s way, Mr. Pintella and Ms. Haynes inserted their personal feelings (along with their duty to their “boss”) into the proceedings. It took a reminder from City Attorney Denise Lyles that there was a vote on a motion in progress to the proceedings back in order.

Mr. Palmer has never been able to accept that people might disagree with him or have a difference of opinion. If you do, you are a “hater,” a “malcontent,” “disgruntled.” It’s “sour grapes” or “political.”

Mr. Palmer, one can take the view that everything that anyone says or does is “political” as it impacts someone else. So what?

You are an elected official. You sought and obtained public office through the “political process.” So what?

People will have a difference of opinion with you. So what?

If you were half of the leader that you purport to be, you would accept that you cannot have your way all of the time. Most of us learn this lesson sooner in life than you have appeared to. Grow up and accept that sometimes, the ideas and positions of others will prevail.

To the four Councilmen who comprehended the situation and acted accordingly, your efforts on behalf of the citizens and what is truly in the city's best interest are applauded and appreciated.

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