Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paul Sigmund update

As if to answer our question about the outcome of Wild Paul's Lawrence traffic case, today's Trentonian reports that municipal prosecutor Reed Gusciora has moved for a change of venue.  Gusciora cited a conflict of interest since he had worked for Sigmund's late mother during one of her campaigns.

News also reached us that Mr. Sigmund paid a visit to McManimon's Pub in South Trenton Monday afternoon where he enjoyed a couple bowls of chili washed down with a couple of large glasses of soda.

Apparently while employed as Mayor Mack's Chief of Staff/Deputy Mayor, our pal Paulie resided at the nearby Grand Court Villas (aka the Cigar Factory) and often visited McManimons.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mack's wack cop plan

Well class, today’s lesson was going to be about “interns, internships and internship programs.”  Unfortunately, that will have to be postponed.

Instead, we are going to have to deal with a little matter about how the city of Trenton utilizes a police department that recently lost 1/3 of its officers due to layoffs.

First, a review:

Due to continued sagging finances, the city of Trenton needed to layoff employees in order to cut costs.  This process was nibbled around for nearly a whole year before Mayor Mack’s administration finally took a big bite out of the city payroll.  September 16, the city laid off a lot of employees, not the least of which were the 105 police officers.

The immediate effect of this was that the department had to lower the minimum staffing levels and still needed to post cop overtime to maintain those.

Besides demotions and layoffs, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (Detectives) and the Vice/Tactical Anti-Crime/Alcoholic Beverage Control units were reduced in size.

Not good for a city already seemingly on the brink of chaos.

Today the dreaded word came down.  Effective Friday, there would be no more tactical units.  No one to follow up on reports of prostitution, problem bars or narcotics sales.  Basically it means no more pro-active policing.

Why? So the Mayor can keep a promise he made to put more cops on foot patrol.

This decision is nothing short of asinine and dangerous. 

Foot patrols, as part of an overall policing strategy have their place. So do bicycle patrols.  But when you are short handed and budget impaired, they are not the most effective/efficient use of your manpower.  Putting foot posts in place at the same time you eliminate your tactical investigating units is a very bad decision.

Besides the wisdom of the decision itself, there are some other questionable aspects about the Mayor ordering the police department to disband some units.

First and foremost, reports indicate the directive came from the acting BA, Anthony Roberts.  Now as far as anyone knows, Mr. Roberts is NOT the Police Director nor is he a sworn law enforcement officer.  So how is it that he has any authority to dictate orders to the police department?

Second, Mayor Mack still utilizes a police officer as a driver, at least during business hours.  Why doesn’t he give that officer up and put him (or her) back on the street as part of the foot patrol?

And because the above wasn’t enough of a mess, the Federal Government announced the recipients of the COPS grants yesterday.  These were funds that would allow distressed cities to bring back some laid off officers. Trenton received $0.  Why is that? (We’re still looking into that question).

In response to all of this, the Mack Administration posted an announcement on the city website:

Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return
Release Date: September 28, 2011

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime
Mayor Tony Mack and Trenton Police Department Announce 18 Police Officers to Return

Department Reorganization based on Community Policing Model to Prevent Crime

TRENTON–Mayor Tony F. Mack and the Trenton Police Department announced today, that 18 police officers will return to full-duty on Saturday, October 1. These officers will be paid from unspent money remaining in last year’s COPS Grant account and money from the scheduled retirement of eight police officers.

The reinstatement of these 18 police officers under the COPS Grant will not represent any increase in the current operating budget. As the Trenton Police Department is being reorganized to reflect a community policing model, these 18 officers will be assigned to the areas most needed for immediate relief.

The impetus for restructuring the Trenton Police Department comes from both the recent layoffs and from input received at Town Hall meetings. Trentonians want to see police officers out of their squad cars and in the community. This message was voiced at those city-wide town hall meetings and again at the administration’s public safety summit.

Trentonians want and need to see police officers walking in our neighborhoods and interacting with the community. This policy change will break down insecurities that exist between residents and our police department. This change underlies the community policing model.

Trenton needs a dramatic shift in our operations to prevent crime before it happens.
This model works in other urban cities, and it will work in Trenton. But, to do this effectively, we need the funding to bring all of our officers back to work.

The administration is investigating why the Capital City was seemingly ignored and abandoned from this year’s grant appropriation. While other municipalities recently received millions of dollars in grant monies, Trenton did not receive any federal assistance.


All well and good, except….

The residual funding from the 2009 grant will run out infour to nine months.  Then what happens to these 18 officers if there is no money found to pay them?  

More foolishness from the Mack administration; more worry for the citizens.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Acting Housing and Economic Development Director pick has poor track record.

Carmen Natal Melendez was recently elevated from the position of aide to Mayor Tony Mack to acting Director of Housing and Economic Development.

What, you might wonder, are Ms. Melendez’s qualifications to hold such a pivotal position in the Mack administration?
  • She was amongst a handful of Latinos who came out in support of Mayor Mack during the 2010 campaign. (Juan Martinez and his brother, Robert Menendez, were two others).
  • Her husband, Cesar Melendez, made two contributions to the Mack campaign in May of 2010: $600 on May 7 and $2600 on May 12.  (That totals $3200 which is over the personal limit of $2600…but maybe it was intended to be split between Carmen and Cesar, thus not breaching the limit).
So Carmen has a personal relationship with the Mayor. What else has she got?

  • Well, she does have a real estate license.  She apparently didn’t have one for awhile, but was re-licensed in September of 2010 and is listed as working for Paladino Realty and Auction of Lambertville, NJ.
  • Her partnership with fellow realtor Albin Garcia is defunct. The firm’s real estate license was deemed inactive in April of 2004, more than a year before it expired. (For comparison, Garcia has maintained a broker of record license since 2006)
  • Striking out on her own, Carmen created Melendez Realty Services LLC in March 2004. Her last annual report was filed in January 2005 and the state REVOKED its corporate standing in October of 2008 for failure to file annual reports for two consecutive years (2006 and 2007).
  • In the meantime, she created Melendez Realty LLC. The original filing was done in November of 2007 but was REVOKED in June 2010 for not filing annual report for two consecutive years (2008 and 2009).
  • She’s obviously had trouble keeping up with the requirements of operating a business.  But there is more.
  • An online search reveals some $57,596.25 in outstanding liens and judgments against her. Some date back to 1996.
So we ask you, dear readers, is this woman qualified to lead the all important housing and economic development arm of city government?

We think not.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Nate Jones a fraud?

While we eagerly await Judge Feinberg's decision on the validity of Nathaniel M. Jones, Jr's appointment as Municipal Court Director for the city of Trenton, you might want to review the following material.

First up, Mr. Jones' resume as furnished upon request by the city of Trenton.

On that resume, Mr. Jones lists both bachelor and juris doctorate degrees from Howard University in Washington, DC.

A search done via the National Student Clearinghouse online service revealed the following fact about Mr. Jones:

Name On School's Records:NATHANIEL M JONES
Date Awarded:N/A
Degree Title:No Degree -- Enrollment Only
Official Name of School:HOWARD UNIVERSITY
Major Course(s) of Study:POLITICAL SCIENCE
Dates of Attendance:08/21/1978 to 05/08/1981

Assuming this information is indicates that Mr. Jones incorporated some untruths on his resume.

Also on the resume, Mr. Jones states that he was admitted to the Bar in Pennsylvania. 

This was apparently true.  But he doesn't mention that in 1995, his name appeared on the list of attorneys tranasferred to inactive status by order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and its Disciplinary Committee. (see page 11 of the listing).

While nothing in the NJ Civil Service title description of Court Director specifies that a law degree be required, it certainly appears as though Mr. Jones might have fudged the point of his qualifications.

The fact that the Mack administration doesn't seem bothered about this lapse in truthfulness on the part of an appointee is somewhat indicative if the Mayor's lax approach to ethics.

Jones should be removed and made to repay all the salary he has collected since his appointment.

Mack should be recalled.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wild Paul rides again

NOTE: This story has been updated with further information. See below 

So, it was announced this past week that Wild Paul Sigmund managed to get Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) for his drug bust/assault on two police officers back last May.

Never mind that he apparently never went into rehab as was indicated in the days following his arrest.

Never mind that his family name and connections probably went a long way towards keeping him out of jail (for now).

So how come Mr. Law-abiding-I'm-going-to-make-it-all-ok-citizen is driving around in a beat up, older SUV that still has California plates on it?

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission webpage plainly states:
Under New Jersey law, you must transfer your vehicle title (with or without a lien) within 60 days. To do this:
1. Visit your local MVC Agency with your original title
2. If your vehicle is financed, you will have to complete an application at an Agency to release the title. The lien holder will then send the title to the Agency and you will be notified when you can return to continue the process
3. Complete an application for Certificate of Ownership
4. Pay the transfer title fee:
    *$60 for standard vehicle
    *$85 for financed vehicle with one lien
    *$110 for a financed vehicle with two liens
5. If you don’t have a lien, you will be issued a receipt that you will need to keep to apply for your registration and receive your plates

If you have a leased vehicle:
1. Contact your leasing company–they will provide you with the required paperwork* to take to MVC. This paperwork will give you legal permission (power. of attorney) to transfer the title
2. Make sure you have enough identification to pass 6 Point ID Verification
3. Visit an MVC Agency and complete the Application for Certificate of Ownership (OS/SS-7) and registration application
4. Pay a $60 title fee
5. Your New Jersey title will be sent to the leasing company

Since Sigmund came back to NJ to work for Mayor Tony Mack last March, our calculations indicate that vehicle registration should have been transferred sometime in May. Why hasn’t it been done?

Keep in mind that he fled the scene of a fender bender auto accident in the Halo Farms parking lot in August. (Anyone know what the outcome of that court date was?)

Could there be problems with the title? Insurance? His license?

So, why was Mr. Paul driving around the streets of Mill Hill in his beat up, out of state registered vehicle at about 5:15 pm Sunday, September 25?

The seemingly un-focused, possibly intoxicated Sigmund claimed to be looking for a route to Trenton Social that bypassed the section of S. Broad Street closed for repaving.

We're guessing he wasn’t showing up for Sunday night salsa lessons.

Was he stopping in for a cold one? (Is that allowed when you are on PTI for a drug charge and supposed to be getting counseling/treatment?)

Or was he really trying to find his way down into South Trenton for other reasons?

Makes you wonder.

UPDATE: We received further information this morning that an apparently high or drunk or both Wild Paul did indeed arrive at Trenton Social last evening. It is reported that he inquired about watching a game on the TV and tried to bum a cigarette before being nicely shown the door. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

He just doesn't learn

Latest Mack appointments more of same.

In a classic attempt to circumvent the news cycle, the Mack administration announced late Friday afternoon the "new" administrative lineup.  The changes of note were the appointments of Harold Hall and Carmen Melendez as acting directors of Public Works and Housing and Economic Development respectively.  Walter Denson was moved from the latter department and made acting Law Director/City Attorney.

While all indications are that Mr. Denson is competent and capable, he is by his own admission not experienced in municipal law. Still, he at least has the credentials as an attorney and some track record of success in his background.

The same cannot be said for Mr. Hall or Ms. Melendez.

Mr. Hall, you remember, was collecting overtime and paid comp time as a Division Director (Public Property).  He's also the person ultimately responsible for overseeing the the payroll for the Park Rangers like Mr. Robert Mendez, Mr. Russ Wilson, and the mysterious Mr. James Moses...all of whom seemed to have doctored their time cards, been paid overtime they didn't earn, and/or went on the city payroll before they were given DCA approval.

According to a statement by the DCA's Lisa Ryan and reported in today's Times, Hall's promotion to acting Director of Public Works will not get state approval "since the Division previously requested the mayor demote or fire him.”

Good for the DCA!  They must be completely exhausted from dealing with the petulant Mayor.

If the elevation of Mr. Hall isn't bad enough, there is the story of Ms. Melendez.

Like Hall, she's a long-time ally of the Mayor who was given a nearly $50,000 per year aide's position shortly after Mack took office last year.  Of course, we are to believe that this position had nothing to do with the $3,200 in campaign contributions Ms. Melendez's husband Cesar made to the Mack campaign in May of 2010.

But that is not the real problem with Carmen's bump up to acting director.

Mayor Mack is proposing putting Ms. Melendez in charge of the department responsible for improving the city's economic outlook through creative and effective development.  This is the same key position he tried to fill last year with convicted felon Carleton Badger. 

I guess the Mayor assumes the public has forgotten that ill-advised move and is trying to foist another crony with questionable credentials on us as directory of Housing and Economic Development. Ms. Melendez, while having no convictions on criminal charges in her background (that we know of), has been far from a stellar success.

Besides some failed Real Estate Agency partnerships that have failed, Ms. Melendez appears to have 10's of thousands of dollars worth of judgements and liens outstanding against her. 

Another Mack appointee with dubious finances and a questionable background.

Isn't this where we came in a year ago?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

On demand

On Wednesday, August 31, Mayor Tony Mack issued the following press release:
Mayor Tony Mack Urges Trenton City Council to Approve Critical Resolutions
-Mayor Tony Mack issued the following statement urging council not to block moving Trenton forward:
“As Mayor of Trenton, I represent the Executive Branch of Government. The City Council is the Legislative Branch. At all levels of government, there is a separation of powers, and that is why I do not consistently attend Council meetings.
Unfortunately, while I have attempted to move the City forward, some members of Council actually stated they do not mind bringing the City’s operation to a screeching halt unless I appear before Council. In furtherance of this stance, at the last Council meeting Council refused to take any action because I was not present.
In order to move the City forward and recognizing public safety as my number one concern, I will attend the council meeting and make the following demands:
1. I demand that Council approve the following resolutions (11-504 Body Armor – State, 11-507 Body Armor – Federal and 11-509 Edward Byrne Justice Assistance grant) most of which involve grants for the police department for body armor, laptops for the police vehicles, etc., equipment our law enforcement officers need to effectively and efficiently carry out their sworn duty. Failure of Council to do so will restrict this City moving forward with the budget process and will leave our police officers without necessary equipment and public safety at risk.
2. I demand Council approve the two municipal court judges I recommended. They are highly qualified and their qualifications were approved by the State. Failure of Council to approve these judges will hurt the City’s budget by limiting the court’s ability to collect fines and will affect public safety by limiting the court’s ability to prosecute criminals. If the Council fails to approve these appointments, then I will take all legal action necessary to have these vacancies filled, if only on an interim basis.
3. Lastly, I am proposing a plan to cut the layoff of law enforcement officers by two-thirds through a Federal, State, City and Police Union cooperative effort. First, I am demanding Council approve a Federal grant that would provide the City with 36 police officers for three years with two conditions. The first condition is the Federal Government waives the requirement the City pick up the officers’ salaries the year after the grant ends. The second condition is the State provides the $750,000.00 necessary for the City to accept this grant. After all, the City provides police protection for thousands of State workers, the legislators and the Governor.
The other 36 officers would be saved from layoff through a combined commitment of the City and the police force. The City would commit $750,000.00 to retain these officers. The rank and file police officers will need to agree to an 18 month salary freeze retroactive to January 1, 2011 and the entire police force will need to agree to a payroll deduction retroactive to July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012 of only $100 per month. We all have to make sacrifices in these times for the benefit of the City and its citizens, and I am sure the police force will agree to these concessions in order to keep their brothers in blue working and to help keep the City safe.
To date, there is no other plan presented anywhere in the United States requesting a cooperative effort between the Federal Government, State Government, Municipal Government and the Police Unions to avoid the significant layoff of law enforcement officers.
Thank you for your time, join me tomorrow night, and urge Council to move Trenton forward,” stated Mayor Tony F. Mack.
Lauren J. Ira
Director of Policy and Communications
Mayor’s Office-City of Trenton
319 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Tel: 609-989-3052
Cell: 609-741-7322

The reaction to this screed was, expectably, more amusement at his audacity than anger with his arrogance.

The simple fact of the matter is this: the Mayor cannot demand a single thing of City Council other than they follow the law.

His “demand” that they approve certain resolutions was asinine. They never had any intention of slighting our police department. The reason they didn’t act on these and dozens of other matters at the August 18 meeting was TO MAKE A POINT! Fed up with the indifference and lack of timely responses to their inquiries, and ticked off at the Mayor’s purposeful snubbing by not attending that meeting, Council simply chose…as is their prerogative…not to act on a stack of resolutions. They knew what they were doing…, which is more than we can say for Mayor Mack.

Council 1, Mack 0

The second item on the Mayor’s list, the appointment of his two nominees to the Municipal Court is another example of Mr. Mack’s total ignorance regarding the law. As was pointed out at the time that Council chose NOT to further entertain the Mayor’s nominees, if judges need to be appointed on an interim basis it is up to the presiding judge of the vicinage (in the case of Mercer County, Judge Feinberg) NOT the Mayor. These lame threats of “legal action” are just further evidence that Mayor Mack hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

Council 2, Mack 0

The last point in the press release is the most absurd of the three. The Mayor sketches a plan to save some of the about to be laid off Trenton police that encompasses union give backs, waivers on Federal grant stipulations and contributions from the State. Not only was this “announcement” the first anyone had heard of the plan, it is in and of itself unworkable.

The Mayor cannot “negotiate” contracts and concessions in the media. (Witness the fact that the Unions have now filed a grievance against the city for this bone head move).

The Feds are not likely to waive grant requirements just because Tony Mack of Trenton, NJ says they should.

Similarly, the State of NJ is not about to kick in any extra money outside of the already established “Transitional Aid” just because Mayor Mack somehow feels they must. In fact, if he keeps on like this, we will be surprised if the state gives Trenton any money at all considering how it has been wasted to date.

Therefore, the Mayor’s “demands” are as empty and meaningless as his usual rhetoric.

In addition, Mr. Mack needs to quickly learn one simple fact of life: the mayor is in no position to demand anything of city council or anyone else.

The mayor was elected to serve, not to demand.

The mayor is one person. The council is seven and known in the statutes as the governing body.

And behind the council are the voters of the city of Trenton. If anyone is in any position to “demand” anything, it is the roughly 37,000 voters in Trenton who are the ultimate power behind the presumed throne.

As one of those voters, I have a demand for Mayor Mack. STEP DOWN!

If he won’t (and he most likely won’t), then the only option left is to recall him.

Sign. The. Petition. Now.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A report from the scene

Last night (Thursday, September 1, 2011) Trenton City Council held a marathon session.  After more than two hours of public comment, the Mayor arrived and Council went into executive session to grill Mr. Mack on several issues.

The meeting resumed quite late and went until a bit after 2:00 a.m.

Here is one eyewitness account of the "highlights" of the evening.

...council did not end until 2:15!!!! 

They passed almost all of the resolutions.

The ordinance on the water department was a TOTAL fiasco. Councilman Bethea was so confused. Council President McBride claimed she didn't have enough information until Councilwoman Caldwell-Wilson reminded her that Sewer came in to talk to them several months ago and this ordinance was originally presented in February.  Councilwoman McBride still claimed it wasn't enough. 

Edmund {Johnson...of the Water Utility} got up there and freaked out on Councilman Bethea after trying to explain it over and over again. It was horrific.

Councilwoman McBride tried to vote to have the ordinance removed. Council members Phyllis Holly-Ward, George Muschal, Zachery Chester, and Marge Caldwell-Wilson denied it then they voted to pass the ordinance. That passed by the same four votes. Then like a magician Councilman Chester pulled out an already done resolution to make it effective immediately and it passed by the power of four. It was an amazing display of effective government. I was really proud of them.

Councilwomen Reynolds-Jackson and Holly-Ward got into a fight and they started cursing at each other.  Muschal and McBride yelled at them. Then Caldwell-Wilson and McBride got into a fight. It was a hot ghetto mess.

They also did not pass the preliminary budget. Rousseau explained that it will affect the application for state aid.  Councilman Chester reminded Rousseau that he had asked for information from the administration at the meeitng where the budget was introduced and Rousseau admitted that he didn't address those issues. They are going to have a special meeting before September 9 so it doesn't affect the transitional aid application.
So there you have it, folks. Our city government in action.

Mayor Mack, what happened to your "plan" for the arts and culture reviving the city?

The Trenton Museum Society
PO Box 1034
Trenton, NJ 08606

Contact:  Robert Cunningham, 609-462-8721
Carolyn Stetson, 609-915-6451

September 1, 2011


Fate of Ellarslie Uncertain
The Trenton Museum Society announced today that the Mack administration had cancelled a third attempt at a meeting between Robert Cunningham, board president, and the city’s Business Administrator Eric Berry.

According to Cunningham, “We have received no information from the city since we read about the layoff of the Trenton City Museum’s director in the paper.  We have attempted a number of times to meet with the business administrator to no avail.

“One of our trustees has applied twice to meet with the mayor,” he continued,  “but she has not received a reply.  Without any communication, we have no way of knowing what the city plans to do with Ellarslie.”

The board of trustees of the Trenton Museum Society met Tuesday night to determine what could be salvaged from the 2011 – 2012 season of art and history exhibits at Ellarslie.

Without a qualified director, the museum will be forced to cancel all the planned contemporary art exhibits including the Trenton Public Schools exhibit, a popular biennial collaboration at the Trenton City Museum showcasing the work of the city’s public and charter school students.  Unfortunately, once the exhibit is canceled, there will be no way to move forward with the planned monetary prizes associated with this year’s show.

Another popular exhibit and collaboration that cannot continue without a qualified director is the extremely popular Ellarslie Open, a juried show that draws the finest art from the tri-state area and beyond.  The 2012 Ellarslie Open would have marked the thirtieth anniversary of the exhibit.  Over the years, the show has grown so large that Artworks, the downtown visual arts center, collaborates with the museum by hosting part of the show that brings hundreds of artists and thousands of patrons to Trenton each spring.   

“It’s such a shame to cancel these exhibits.  We have worked so hard to make the museum a vibrant cultural center with great success.  Society members volunteer over 5000 hours a year to present the best image of the city to the public.  All of the activity at the museum has made Cadwalader Park a safer and more pleasant place to visit and we have garnered a tremendous amount of positive press that benefits not only the museum and the park, but the entire city of Trenton as well, ” said long-time museum supporter Carolyn Stetson.  “Even though Eric Berry has scheduled a meeting for September 7, it will be difficult to salvage our schedule.  Exhibits of the caliber shown at Ellarslie take months to plan and prepare and we are way behind because we have been waiting to hear what the city’s plan is.  Our first exhibit of the season was supposed to open on September 17.”

The greatest disappointment is the cancellation of the Four Vases exhibit.  This would have been an exhibit of national significance showcasing the highest achievement of the US ceramics industry by bringing together again for the first time in over one hundred years four monumental vases produced in Trenton.  Three of the vases were to be loaned by the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum and the New Jersey State Museum.  The Museum Society recently purchased the fourth vase, the Woodland Vase, which had been lost for over one hundred years.  The vases, called by some experts “the most important pieces of porcelain produced in the United States, ” were manufactured by Trenton Potteries Co for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Exposition.

The Trenton Museum Society is the 501c3 organization that owns the collection of historical objects, fine and decorative arts displayed at Ellarslie.  They also provide workshops, classes and the musical programming at the museum.  Until he received his layoff notice, in addition to his other responsibilities, the director Brian Hill provided the communications link with the city.  City Hall has not informed Hill of their plans and have not made any arrangements for a transition.

 “This year, the Trenton Museum Society was poised to do major fundraising through writing grants and appealing directly to individual supporters of the arts and of Trenton’s illustrious history,” Cunningham said.  “We can’t do any of that now, because until the city administration sits down with us, we don’t know what the future holds.”