Thursday, December 20, 2012

Meanwhile, in America's formerly favorite hometown...

{NOTE: we made a correction to the statement regarding the percentage of the Hamilton GOP committee treasury that was transferred to the ex-Mayor's campaign fund. We regret the typo that indicated a math error.}

In what could only be described as an attempt at karmic rehabilitation, Hamilton Township ex-Mayor John Bencivengo planned to run out his campaign treasury by sending checks totaling some $60,000 to various area charities.

Then came the reports that some of the chosen non-profits are politely turning down the contributions.

But that isn't the interesting part.

On the night of April 19, the Times of Trenton posted a story about Bencivengo being the target of a federal investigation into political corruption.

On that same day, according to his own campaign report (see page 2), Bencivengo received a transfer of $11,000 from the Hamilton Township Republican Committee. That $11,000 represented about 40% of the club's treasury.

On the corresponding report from the Hamilton party (page 8), the transfer was dated as occurring April 20...the day after.

Did Bencivengo incorrectly think he could use campaign funds for his legal defense? Remember, his defense attorney was Jerome Balloratto, who reportedly charges $500 per hour.

The NJ Supreme court decided that issue in the case of former state senator Wayne Bryant. Campaign funds cannot be used for the purpose of providing a defense in a criminal case.

"Contributors do not expect that their candidate’s election will be a stepping stone to a criminal indictment", wrote Justice Barry Albin in the March 2010 decision.

Why would Bencivengo practically plunder the township club's coffers just as he was heading into a federal corruption case?

Once he moved the money in, it would be "awkward" to move the money back.

Dispersing it to local charities was a nice gesture.

But it does smell a bit.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Then again...

Further research reveals Tony Mack is NOT the first!

Yesterday, we stated that Trenton's current mayor was the first in the city's history to be indicted while in office.

We were wrong.

In 1947, then mayor Donal Connolly was indicted by a Mercer County grand jury. Mayor Connolly was charged with a misdemeanor conspiracy for absconding (a few years earlier) with $1,600 in licensing fees while he was secretary to the State Beauty Culture Control Board. He was ultimately acquitted.

So we will correct yesterday's statement to read this way:
Tony Mack became the first sitting mayor in the 333 year history of New Jersey’s capital city to be indicted on charges based on his actions while in office.
The rest of what we posted yesterday, we stand by.

Mayor Mack should, for the good of the city, step down.

Friday, December 07, 2012

He got what he wanted

Tony F. Mack has dreamed of leaving his mark on Trenton.

He succeeded yesterday, but not in the way he probably had expected.

Tony Mack became the first sitting mayor in the 333 year history of New Jersey’s capital city to be indicted.

Tony, the affable three-sport standout from Trenton High was able to rise above the bleak prospects of life in the city’s Wilbur section. He attended Howard University and came home to become a bright light in the city and county Democratic Party. A former protégé of then Mayor Doug Palmer, Mack eventually became member of the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Somewhere, somehow, something went awry.

Some say Mack was mistreated by his former mentor and/or the county political machine.

Others think he may have squandered his natural political skills.

We think his reach exceeded his grasp.

Tony Mack ventured way beyond the limits of his abilities and skated out onto thin ice.

The simple fact is Tony Mack was in over his head in a variety of ways.

His personal finances were a mess. His political career was on the skids. His prospects for gainful employment were apparently non-existent.

The tenacity he showed as a star wrestler, the no-quit attitude kept him plugging away. His warm smile and “look at me, I’m not supposed to be here” story were engaging enough to squeeze him into the mayor’s office in July 2010.

What happened since then has been a well documenteddisaster.

It is very true that an indictment is not a conviction and we all believe strongly in the “innocent until proven guilty” ethos.

Yet Tony Mack is guilty. He is guilty of gross incompetence; guilty of blind prejudice and a mad desire to gain vengeance over those he believes have wronged him. He is guilty of mistaking love of self for love of our city.

Tony Mack should resign, immediately from his position of Mayor of the City of Trenton. His vanity; his ego is holding our city hostage.

Nothing. NOTHING! Not one damn thing will be done that can move Trenton forward unless and until Mr. Mack is mayor no more.

Of course, if he were to resign, his troubles will worsen exponentially.

It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that, with the amount of debt we know he carries, a sudden lack of regular income will send a herd of creditors to his doorstep, hands out, wanting their due. His attorney may be among those looking for that first position to be paid.

So it is that Tony Mack will stick it out until the last possible minute. He will forsake his professed love for Trenton; he will forsake his devotion to his family’s well being simply to avoid having to say, “Enough! I can’t do this anymore. I quit!”

Tony Mack should do some real soul searching but he can’t. When he stands before a mirror, he doesn’t see the wretched mess he has made of his brief tenure as mayor of Trenton. He only sees the nice suit, the warm, affirming smile.

Tony Mack cannot see the reality. He only sees his “projection” of what he wants that reality to be. And that image is getting dim.

Tony Mack has made his mark on Trenton all right. He won’t soon be forgotten, but he will not be remembered fondly.