The saga of the Tony Mack administration gets sadder.
While he awaits his day in Federal court on charges of conspiring to accept bribes in a make believe development deal, the indicted and embattled mayor continues to lose whatever shreds of credibility he may have had left.
In April, the Civil Service Commission ruled that the administration had wrongfully laid off former lead park ranger Michael Morris in favor of Mack croney, Robert "Chico" Mendez. The CSC gave the city a month to rehire Morris and dismiss Mendez. The city has done neither.
In fact, the administration is claiming that it wants to appeal the decision in the case. Strange, since the record shows that they did not even bother to respond to the matter when it was crawling through the CSC process.
Asking the city council to approve funding for an appeal that would seem to have no real standing but instead is based purely on the mayor's personal vendetta against a former employee is not going to be an easy sell. The governing body is increasingly wary of these kinds of wasteful and ultimately fruitless expenditures.
And, lest anyone think the council does not have a say in the matter, let us refer you to this little item from the city code:
Whenever (s)he deems the interests of the City so require the City Attorney may, with the approval of the Mayor and Council and within the limits of available appropriations, appoint special counsel to assist him/her in the preparation, trial or argument of such legal matters or proceedings as (s)he may determine. If the City Attorney should be disqualified with respect to any matter, the Mayor shall appoint special counsel, with the approval of the City Council, to represent the City for and with respect to such matter.
Clearly, the governing body has the approval. Period.
This might be a mere annoyance to a mayor who has repeatedly ignored the laws if they didn't agree with his personal agenda, but it is only the beginning.
“We received notification from DCA earlier today that they will not even consider any funding in support of the hotel until they receive a copy of a plan from the city with respect to available options for funding and profits — a more comprehensive plan,” business administrator Sam Hutchinson said.
After an hour long presentation meant to coax the city council into approving a $200,000 expenditure to help cover the costs of transitioning the hotel from Marriot to Wyndham and changing management companies, members of the governing body engaged in a little question and answer session about the hotel.
All of the responses from LYCDC president Joyce Kersey, the LYCDC attorney and representatiaves from the management companies circled around having more money appropriated to effect the changes and better position the property in the market place. Very little was said about efforts to sell the hotel beyond vague references to giving consideration to any "serious offer".
In response to a question from council president Phyllis Holly-Ward, city business administrator Sam Hutchinson announced that he had just that morning received communication from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs informing him that they could not proceed without a concrete plan in place.
Seizing the moment to solidify the obvious (and reported) inclination of a majority of the body to cut off further spending on the hotel, Councilman Zac Chester immediately asked if the administration would pull the item from the docket. Strangely, Hutchinson declined to defer to the mayor's higher authority and declined to withdraw the funding resolution from the docket.
It really didn't matter as the council has the authority to set its agenda and can add or remove items as it sees fit.
This didn't stop Councilwoman McBride from launching into an angy attack on the DCA, proclaiming that Director Neff was, in effect, the "mayor of Trenton" and that Mayor Mack had been reduced to nothing more than a mere figurehead.
The councilwoman was more correct than she knows.
The latest MOU signed with the state continued a three year trend of putting more control over city matters in the DCA's hands and creating less leeway for the mayor and his few remaining cronies to wreck their own particular brand of municipal mayhem.
The edict to not proceed with any further funding for the hotel without a concrete plan represents a very significant flexing of the state's muscles. It appears that the state "is not playing" anymore.
Something IS happening here.