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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Santiago given seven days to comply with residency law

Trenton City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night that gives Mayor Douglas H. Palmer seven days to advise council of Police Director Joseph Santiago's intentions to move into Trenton before facing dismissal proceedings for his continued violation of the city's residency law.

"As a body, we need to make a decision," Councilman Jim Coston said.

The measure also criticized Mayor Palmer's granting of an exemption to the law through a waiver, calling the waiver improper and not in accordance with the residency ordinance and therefore having no force or effect.

Most of the council members who voted for the measure - which included every council member except for Council President Paul Pintella, who abstained - reflected that they supported Mr. Santiago's performance as director but could not make exceptions to an established Trenton law because of that performance.

"I support him 100 percent," said Councilwoman Annette Lartigue. "But the ordinance is clear."
Councilman Gino Melone had similar sentiments.

"This does not reflect Mr. Santiago's performance," said Mr. Melone. "But the law is the law."

Numerous residents also spoke out about the issue during public comment, with a majority supporting the enforcement of the law and the requirement for city employees to live in Trenton.

One man - a lifelong resident born in Trenton in 1944 - said that the law fought against the wave of urban flight, which decimated many New Jersey city's and continues to do so today, urban areas like Trenton.

"This isn't Trenton anymore," he said. "Let's get back to Trenton."

City Council went into an executive session immediately following the regular meeting to discuss a lawsuit filed against the city last week by a group residents - in which I am a plaintiff - with the goal of having Mr. Santiago removed for his violation of the residency ordinance.

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