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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Welcome to the machine

The myth of a residency waiver granted by Mayor Douglas H. Palmer to Police Director Joseph Santiago was challenged Wednesday by former City Attorney George Dougherty, who said such a waiver could never have been granted in the circumstances surrounding Mr. Santiago's residency during his tenure as head of the Trenton Police Department since 2003.

Mayor Palmer and the director this week maintained it is well within the mayor's powers to provide such a waiver - for what has been called "personal" reasons - but Mr. Dougherty said this is not the case.

He said the ordinance only provides for waivers in the case of an unfilled position that cannot be filled by candidates complying to the residency requirement.

Acting Director Abe Hemsey was in full control of the position at the time of Mr. Santiago's appointment, so the position was filled and any residency waiver simply could not apply, Mr. Dougherty said this week.

The residency stipulation also requires the position must be one, which if left unfilled, could harm the City of Trenton and public safety.

Mr. Dougherty said Wednesday that he has been approached by members of the public interested in challenging the situation, and he would represent them pro bono.

Sources speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday said that if this situation makes it to court and a judge could vacate the director's seat - the trend in previos, similar cases - look for Mayor Palmer's minions on City Council to prepare to amend the ordinance to provide stronger waiver powers to the mayor.

Should something like this occur, Trenton residents need to be prepared to use their recently-reinforced ability to challenge city ordinances through referendum, to prevent the law from being changed to allow for the special, unnamed circumstances of a man who has done irreparable harm to the Trenton Police Department and the rest of the city.

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