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Thursday, October 4, 2007

City Council errs again with potential ethics probe

Sources said Thursday that Trenton Councilwoman Cordelia Staton may be preparing to move that Councilman Jim Coston be brought in front of an ethics board for his actions in releasing a recording of an executive session regarding the appointment of City Clerk Juanita Joyner.

Mr. Coston may have been wrong initially in his release of the tapes of the executive session.

But legal sources say that the session itself was illegal and in violation of a slew of Open Public Meetings Act rules that invalidate its confidentiality and any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Coston.

The executive session began without the adoption of any resolution detailing the session's expected topic, nor any release date upon which the contents of the discussion would become public, the source said.

Further, both Special Counsel Joseph A. Alacqua and Council President Paul Pintella, who attacked Mr. Coston's actions, did not keep the discussion on topic, either out of ignorance or a desire to keep the discussion from the eyes and ears of the Trenton public.

In effect, this lack of direction in keeping the executive session concealed important political discussion from the Trenton public about the perceived abusive nature of the relationship between the Palmer administration and some members of council and hid it beneath the darkness of executive session protocol, sources said.

The complaints against Mr. Coston are further off base for other reasons, the source said.

New Jersey state law dictates that any executive session discussion, especially regarding personnel decisions, becomes public as soon as any decision is made following the executive session deliberations.

It seems that the moment the council voted to appoint Juanita Joyner city clerk, any need for confidentially was removed, and Mr. Coston is innocent of any wrongdoing.