Friday, April 06, 2012

It’s not my fault. I didn’t cause it.

That was the punch line to an old George Carlin routine that poked fun at the trend of denying responsibility for anything bad.

It has become the theme song of the Tony Mack administration.

The Times’ Matt Fair wrote a story about the city being out of compliance with the Section III requirements for local work force participation in CDBG funded projects. In that story is the following quote: 

“These grants were in place when we took office,” acting business administrator Anthony Roberts said in an e-mail last night. “We will continue to make corrections to irresponsible proposals submitted by the Palmer administration just as we have with many other ill-advised projects.”

The key phrases in the Roberts defense: “in place when we took office” and “irresponsible proposals submitted by the Palmer administration.”

The reality is slightly different.

At his very first Town Hall meeting as Mayor, Tony Mack told a rapt and attentive audience at the North 25 housing complex all about his grand plans to refurbish several parks.  Astute watchers of Trenton politics knew that the funding was in place for years and at risk of being lost if action wasn’t taken. The only thing the Mack administration did was put the wheels into motion.

So…if that was the case, which administration is responsible for seeing that the contracts are let according to the Federal rules? The Palmer administration, who applied for, received and then sat on the money or the Mack administration that actually signed the contracts?

Nobody with any sense would argue that Palmer did no wrong. But after almost two years “in charge”, Tony Mack’s finger pointing has gotten tiresome.

Similarly, in stories published in both the Times and theTrentonian, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has put the city of Trenton on notice that it is in violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. In a letter sent to Municipal Clerk Leona Baylor, the prosecutor cites the fact that the city is behind in approving and posting city council meeting minutes as required by law.

Both papers report the reasons given for being behind are that the clerk’s office is short-staffed, the workload because of OPRA requests from citizens takes priority, and…wait for it…they were behind when I got here.

In Matt Fair’s Times article, Municipal Clerk Leona Baylor is quoted as saying:

“The minutes have always been behind. They’ve never been current. They were behind when I first got there.”

The city website posts meeting agendas going back to 2006. There are a little more than a dozen meeting minutes that appear to be missing from between Jan 1, 2006 and Dec 31, 2009.  From Jan 1, 2010 the minutes start appearing less frequently. Interestingly enough, when the Mack administration took over on July 1, 2010, meeting minutes were approved pretty consistently for the first four months or so. Then there was a steep drop off of minutes being approved.

So, yes, Ms. Baylor, a problem existed prior to your arrival and prior to the Mack administration. The problem went away for a short time and then came back with a vengeance.

Whether complying with OPRA requests or completing the meeting minutes in a timely manner is a burden or not, it is the law. And it is the duty of the clerk's office to follow the law.

We all recognize the failings of previous administrations and some of them cannot be corrected now. But that is not an excuse for failing to follow federal grant guidelines, state statute or common sense. 

After almost two years at city hall, there is no one to point fingers at except those who are on the job today.


Unknown said...

As is often the case, we see things similarly. Putting aside the substance of the specific matters at hand for a moment, it is such a continuing hallmark of this Administration to put the blame on anyone else but themselves. Oh, we get an occasional false-modest "mistakes have been made" but each and every step of theirs "is heading in the right direction" while every problem isn't their fault.

After two years, they need to take ownership for what they have been doing in this city.

Lamberton Lilly said...

This consistant whining about how it's Doug Palmer's fault is getting very STALE. I am told Ms. Baylor could lose her certification. As to losing the grant money... I would have most use for this crowd if they were honest - "Hey, folks, we don't know what we're doing; it's harder than we thought."