Friday, January 20, 2012

Whaddaya think?

Below is the text of the purported Executive Order 10-11 creating Mayor Mack's Commission on International Business Affairs. You can find a pdf of the original here. You read it and then get back to us with answers to these questions:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is this something the city of Trenton should be doing right here, right now?
  • Is this even "legal"? 

Let us know what you think.

City of Trenton
Executive Order by Honorable Mayor Tony F. Mack
Mayor's Commission on International Business Affairs
September 20, 2011
An Executive Order establishing the Mayor's Commission on International Business Affairs to encourage the development and implementation of policies, programs and practices specifically intended to improve conditions affecting the cultural, social, political, educational, health and general well-being of African and Caribbean immigrants, refugees and asylees residing in the City of Trenton, Mercer County. The commission shall make recommendations with regard to the Mayor and /or his designees, all relating to the improvement of conditions in the City of Trenton, Mercer County for International Business communities.

WHEREAS, Several international and humanitarian and international faith based organizations intervened in Africa, Europe and Asia refugee's crisis by arranging to resettle many refugees from these countries Liberia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sudan, Somalia, Italy, Russia, Ukrainian, Poland, and other Eastern and to communities within the United States; and

WHEREAS, Beginning in the 1990's and continuing until today, several African countries have undergone severe civil war and political unrest, leading to genocide of many ethnic and religious minorities, as well as the exile of former government leaders and their families, creating hundreds of thousands of refugees and political asylees; and

WHEREAS, At the same time, political unrest throughout the Caribbean, especially in Haiti, created an additional refugee crisis within the Western Hemisphere; and

WHEREAS, Similar umbrella Organizations will be created to represent the Italian, Polish, Russian, Asian, Central and South American Communities etc.

NOW, THEREFORE, by the power vested in me in accordance with Article 5, Plan D 3-­9 of the city of Trenton Charter, it is hereby ordered as follows:


The City of Trenton, Mercer County Mayor Commission on International Business Affairs ("the Commission") is hereby established in the Mayor's Office, which office shall pay, from appropriations made to it, all the expenses of such commission

·         Host monthly interactive Commission Meetings to promote and inform the African, Caribbean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Asian, Central and South American Immigrants of activities occurring within the Trenton Immigrant Community.
·         Collaborate with African, Caribbean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Asian, Central and South America affiliated organizations in providing support to events such as; health fairs, college fairs, cultural programs, political events, galas, and roundtable discussions on current issues.
·         Make representation at conferences locally, state-wide, and nation-wide and internationally to promote education, job security, and cultural enrichment and immigration issues.
·         Promote business and trade agreements on behalf of the African, Caribbean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Asian, Central and South American Communities.
·         Organize Trade Missions, International Trade and Business Shows and Forums and promote Exports
·         Engage in neighborhood improvements and revitalization programs
·         Assist Immigrants with accessing city services through the office of the Mayor.


Each Independent Commission shall be composed of nine (9) members, who shall serve without compensation. The mayor shall appoint members of the commission as follows:
(a)    The President of City Council or his or her designee;
(b)   The Executive Director /Chairperson of each cultural division
(c)    Two (2) other members of the community appointed by the Mayor
(d)   Five (5) other culturally diverse professional, business owners and faith based community members from the City of Trenton appointed by the commission.

Commission Chair and all other officers of the Commission will be elected in accordance with the process outlined in the bylaws.

The commission will develop and implement bylaws and create a mission statement that supports and reflects the needs of the African and Caribbean immigrant community in the City of Trenton.

Section 5. This order shall be effective immediately.

And, if you check the original document, you will see it is signed on October 19, month after the date the order was issued.  Really?

We know one thing, if we were one of the "advisers" to this endeavor listed on the city website, we would be screaming to have our name removed from any and all documents pertaining to this mess.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fundraising for the commission

It looks like another round of "Hey, kids! Let's put on a show!"

Yesterday's big news was the creation of Mayor Mack's Commission for International Business Affairs. This august body was reportedly the result of an executive order issued by the mayor last fall. While we still haven't seen a copy of said order, we do have some questions about this situation.

Can a public body be created by the mayor via an executive order?
What powers would such a body have that require them to be "sworn in?"
How is this commission being funded?

Well, on that last point we have at least a partial answer.

Seems as though after Friday afternoon's "swearing in" ceremony at the Marriott, there will be a special dinner held at Amici Milano restaurant in Chambersburg. Want to attend? Just cough up $250 and you can!  At least that's what the invitation says.

Makes one wonder though...

You're having a ceremony at the hotel which has a ballroom and is fully equipped to handle a large affair, but you are going across town to a restaurant that is much smaller, for your fundraising dinner.

Our guess is that, like the "swearing in ceremony" itself, the idea of changing locations for the dinner is all about making a display.  Just picture it, a motorcade of limousines flying little flags from their fenders and ferrying the diplomats and such wending it's way through Friday evening rush hour traffic from the Marriott to Chambersburg. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

For the record

Just in case you haven't been paying attention:

Trenton city council was bamboozled (yet again) by the Mack administration into convening an executive session on January 3 via an improper resolution and to discuss something that wasn't subject to executive session.

A city employee who has been charged with using another person's name (fraud) to obtain a contract (prohibited under state statute) has been collecting sick pay (approximately $14,000 worth to date) while awaiting the outcome of the case.

Mayor Mack apparently issued an executive order last fall (we don't know when because we can't find any reference on the city website) creating a Commission for International Business Affairs that will seek trade ties with Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago. The commissioners are to be "sworn in" this Friday but we're not sure why they need to be sworn in. We're also not sure what authority that mayor has to create a commission without running it by city council. And we don't know why, but one of the commissioners holds the title of "Treasurer." (Read Kevin Moriarty's thoughts on this here)

In the meantime, with all of this foolishness going on, we are so desperately short of cops on the street that this morning's homicide on Clearfield Avenue took just about every available officer off patrol to manage the scene.

And it's only the middle of January! Guess we're picking up right where we left off last year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apparently, Crime* does pay

You remember back in November when the story broke that long time City of Trenton employee and AFSCME local president Dave Tallone was charged by the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office with fraudulently obtaining city contracts, right?

You don't?

Then read Lisa Coryell's article from the Times, November 11, 2011.

And you remember when, on the heel of those charges, the City of Trenton issued a release stating that Mr. Tallone was to be suspended immediately without pay?  If not, here's the press release on the city website.
 Well, what if we told you that Mr. Tallone has not missed a day of pay in the past two plus months?

We didn't either. that is not until we checked his payroll records and discovered that Mr. Tallone has been collecting "sick pay", "holiday pay" and, of course, his "longevity pay" ever since his alleged suspension. 

Seems as though Mr. Tallone was never technically suspended. Sources are saying the city, in the persons of acting Business Administrator Anthony Roberts and/or acting Public Works Director Harold Hall, never provided Mr. Tallone with the required Loudermill hearing and notice of suspension.  There doesn't seem to be any reason to not have provided this "due process" to Mr. Tallone. He didn't even have to be present for them to hold a hearing and draft a notice to send to him.

The city just didn't seem to do it in the 30 days allotted.  So now Mr. Tallone enjoys a taxpayer paid vacation while awaiting the disposition of his case.

Was this by design or default?  Maybe Mr. Bocchini or the new state Attorney General should seek answers to that question.

UPDATE: The Trentonian has posted a story on line here wherein highyl paid contract labor attorney for the city Steve Glickman claims that Tallone's charges were not serious enough to allow suspension without pay.  Glickman goes on to explain that Tallone could be suspended with pay, but that would be like giving him a "paid vacation." 

Mr. Glickman, what is Mr. Tallone getting now but paid for not doing anything?  Sounds like a paid vacation to us.
*We use the term "Crime" here to make the reference to the old saw that crime doesn't pay. We fully recognize that Mr. Tallone was only charged with criminal acts and as yet has not been found guilty of any crime.  Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Check please!

A little history of the salary mess in Trenton
In August of 2003, the Palmer administration put ordinances on the city council docket increasing the salary ranges for the Mayor and department heads, the city clerk and increasing the city council pay.  It was a sneaky, distasteful move on a couple of counts.

First, earlier that year, the same administration had asked department heads to cut budgets by 10% or so because of the city’s financial condition. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to cut budgets and then turnaround and grant the king’s court raises, does it?

Second, the ordinances were late additions to the docket of the single council meeting held in August.  This meant the second reading/approval would come at the first meeting in September. Coming at the end of summer when people are away on vacation and right after the Labor Day holiday when so many families are readjusting to a more regulated fall schedule, the timing of the introduction of these ordinances was obviously designed to circumvent public scrutiny and outcry.

Didn’t work. Various watchdogs, activists, etc. got wind of the ordinance’s first reading and spoke against it.  At the second reading in September of that year, a decent crowd turned out and spoke against the raises during the public hearing that proceeded the vote on the ordinances.

It was testy. Then Council President Paul Pintella was about to have one citizen removed from chambers but the speaker left of his own volition.  Another resident brought a tube of KY Jelly to the podium and asked that council at least use a lubricant before “putting it to the citizens”.  

The ordinances passed.

Another interesting development was that the ordinances for the Mayor, department heads and city clerk denoted salary ranges with annual increases over a several year period.  While not specifically prohibited, state statue does not mention salary ranges. It simply states “salaries, wages or compensation”.

§ 40A:9-165. Salaries, wages or compensation of mayor or other chief executive; officers and employees; exceptions; referendum
The governing body of a municipality, by ordinance, unless otherwise provided by law, shall fix and determine the salaries, wages or compensation to be paid to the officers and employees of the municipality, including the members of the governing body and the mayor or other chief executive, who by law are entitled to salaries, wages, or compensation.
Salaries, wages or compensation fixed and determined by ordinance may, from time to time, be increased, decreased or altered by ordinance. No such ordinance shall reduce the salary of, or deny without good cause an increase in salary given to all other municipal officers and employees to, any tax assessor, chief financial officer, tax collector or municipal clerk during the term for which he shall have been appointed. Except with respect to an ordinance or a portion thereof fixing salaries, wages or compensation of elective officials or any managerial, executive or confidential employee as defined in section 3 of the "New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act" P.L.1941, c.100 (C.34:13A-3), as amended, the ordinance shall take effect as provided therein. In municipalities wherein the provisions of Title 11 (Civil Service) of the Revised Statutes are in operation, this section shall be subject thereto.
Where any such ordinance shall provide for increases in salaries, wages or compensation of elective officials or any managerial, executive or confidential employee, the ordinance or that portion thereof which provides an increase for such elective or appointive officials shall become operative in 20 days after the publication thereof, after final passage, unless within said 20 days, a petition signed by voters of such municipality, equal in number to at least 5% of the registered voters of the municipality, protesting against the passage of such ordinance, be presented to the governing body, in which case such ordinance shall remain inoperative unless and until a proposition for the ratification thereof shall be adopted at an election by a majority of the voters voting on said proposition. The question shall be submitted at the next general election, occurring not less than 40 days from the date of the certification of the petition. The submission of the question to the voters shall be governed by the provisions of Title 19 (Elections) of the Revised Statutes, as in the case of public questions to be voted upon in a single municipality.

Not only were salary ranges and automatic, annual increases built in, Mayor Palmer chose to pay himself and his staff at the top of those ranges. Consistently.  The argument was made that when you have ranges, the average, qualified, competent employee should be paid at the midpoint of the range.  Someone with less than spectacular performance or a lack of experience would be paid in the lower part of the range; someone who excels at the job might expect to be paid at the higher end.  That’s common sense and good business.

The Palmer administration had no part of that. They argued that the cabinet members were all doing excellent work and must be paid as much as possible because many of the unionized employees they managed were making the same or more money.  Apparently there is some unwritten law that states the boss must make more than the employee.  And that argument was extended all the way up to the mayor.  If you inflate the department head salaries, then of course you have to raise the mayor’s. 

 To say the public was unhappy…or at least those who were paying attention…would be an understatement.

Flash forward to 2008. Not wanting to go through the hassle of having to explain the raises again, the Palmer administration illegally snuck them through via some vague language tacked onto the ratification of union contracts by city council.  It took a citizen to file a legal complaint against the city and a judge’s order to throw out those raises.  Of course, no one had to pay back the money they gained through the illegal raises.

That brings us to July 2010. Mayor Mack is sworn in and starts paying himself and his cabinet at the same rate, the top of the 2008 ranges that Palmer and company got.  Mack did this knowing the city was on the precipice of financial failure.  Mack did this while facing layoffs yet simultaneously going on a hiring spree, bringing in cronies and aides and interns and such.  Only because the ruling came down in August and was applied to the current administration did the pay scale get rolled back to the 2005 levels; the last legally passed pay raises.

A sympathetic, sentient Mayor would realize that a city with major financial issues, a city that must layoff hundreds of employees including 1/3 of the police department, can not afford to raise his salary or that of his cabinet.  Unfortunately for Trenton, Mayor Mack is neither sympathetic nor sentient.

Mayor Mack is a failed city leader. Eighteen months into his term, he has demonstrated no plan for improving public safety or economic development. He has demonstrated, repeatedly, an incredible lack of ability or will to do anything except hire and reward his friends while the city falls further and further into despair and disrepair.

Last night a very clear and strong message was sent to the mayor via the public comments at the city council meeting.  The people will not reward the continued incompetence of this administration with even the mere consideration of raising the mayor’s salary.