Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who's at the helm?

After burning up the keyboard and the logging some serious verbiage last weekend, we sat back this week to quietly observe things from our vantage point on the stoop.

The picture isn’t all that good.

Revelations about Mr. Colicelli’s continued use of city resources and appearances at City Hall despite not having a binding contract, coupled with the fact that he’s been paid for “work done” last month and not authorized under any contract irritated certain council members. Meanwhile the Times, unconvincingly took those council members to task for an alleged hasty vote that didn’t allow for a proper transition as the consultant, who according to his submitted invoices did little more than attend meetings, exited.

Trentonian columnist L.A. Parker wrote about the questioned need for a $130,280 Chief of Staff position and a $55,457, part time aide. Citing an anonymous source, Parker reported that “Palmer antagonists” may be setting their sights on eliminating these two positions.

Interestingly, these (and other) positions need to be reviewed with respect to their effectiveness in the overall operation of the city and the relative cost to the tax payers. During the Palmer years, the city hall hierarchy has grown. The Chief of Staff position, a police driver, and various aides to the Mayor: these have all been added, but do the results justify the costs?

Or is the Mayor:
a) covering for his own managerial inadequacies
b) taking care of friends and associates
c) paying others to do things he’s not interested in doing.

Perhaps all of the above.

Councilman Coston made a point in the aftermath of the Colicelli decision that maybe the Palmer should “take the reins.” And that is the simple truth.

The hallmark of the Palmer administration is that the man himself is remote and detached from the day to day job he was elected to do. In fact, he is increasingly absent from the city itself. In his stead we have had a succession of Chiefs of Staff: Bill Watson, Gwendolyn Long-Harris, and Renee Haynes. And then there are aides, like Mr. Jerome Harris…who, if we are not mistaken, is the husband of the former Chief of Staff.

It was also announced this week that there will be some half dozen different attorneys working on the Santiago residency case. And they will all be funded by city tax dollars. All because Doug Palmer is determined to have his way, or punish those who oppose him by dragging things out in the courts. And if he won’t capitulate and rescind his unlawful waiver, city council should step up and terminate Santiago’s employment with the city. The law is the law (and take heed all you other not-quite-bona-fide-city-resident Directors who’ve been sticking closer to your Trenton cribs—you could be next). Drawing this matter out in the courts is unnecessary and costly.

Similarly, it was revealed in today’s paper that the city is filing for the return of settlement payments made to Trenton Fire Captain Ron Kosztyu. Kosztyu had alleged the city passed him over for promotion due to his union activities and anti-administration stance. The State Department of Personnel Merit Board agreed, but the city appealed. Just prior to the case going before the judge, a settlement was reached.

Now the city is challenging that Kosztyu and his attorney, George Dougherty (who is also representing the citizens who are challenging the Santiago residency waiver), improperly spoke to the press regarding the settlement and disparaged the city. On these grounds, the city is seeking to have the settlement declared void and the payments returned.

Anyone notice a pattern here?

It’s been said elsewhere but the comparison to Nero fiddling while Rome burns keeps coming to mind.

Palmer is only fooling himself if he thinks the people of Trenton can’t see through his charade of leadership. This Captain is not on the ship, let alone in the pilot house. He’s left it to an ever increasing cadre of loyalists with questionable competencies (the names Haynes, Gonzalez, Santiago, Colicelli come immediately to mind) to run the city.

And folks, we’re in danger of running aground.

Perhaps its time for our other elected officials, city council, to grab the oars and turn this boat around. Before it’s too late.

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