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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Residency back on council agenda

Trenton City Council members intend to continue discussions on the Joseph Santiago residency controversy at their meeting tonight, with a possibility of taking definitive action on the issue.

“I would like to see us make a decision tonight because I’m sick of this same discussion,” said South Ward Councilman Jim Coston in today’s Trentonian. “It’s time to fish or cut bait.”

Avenues previously discussed by City Council include ordering Joseph Santiago to announce his intentions about moving to Trenton and then initiating a dismissal hearing against him, asking the mayor to actually enforce the law, or hiring a special attorney for City Council to seek a decision from a local judge on the issue.

Initiating a dismissal hearing against Mr. Santiago would allow the council a chance to use a five-vote decision to remove the director, which seems to be warranted by language in both city and state law.

But hiring an attorney to seek a judgment would most likely bog down the momentum gained in the matter last week, when a group of nine residents - including myself - filed a lawsuit against the city, Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, and Mr. Santiago, seeking the director’s removal for his residency law violations.

The City Council has not yet proved itself to be a reliable instrument for enforcing the law - although this could be a perfect opportunity to do so - and even seeking a judgment from a Superior Court judge would still require the council to make its own deliberations, requiring five votes from the council’s seven members to make Mr. Santiago’s removal from office a reality.

Simply supporting the lawsuit and whatever decision is made in a court of law would probably be a good choice, unless the council does indeed have the strength and resolve to enforce the laws of the City of Trenton.

Otherwise, it would be better to let a court of law make the decision, and stand by that opinion.

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