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Monday, April 28, 2008

BREAKING: residency news...

Court papers filed today only further revealed the despicable conduct of officials in the Douglas H. Palmer administration, which has grown worse in recent weeks.

According to papers filed in Mercer County Superior Court today, Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum and others began threatening about a dozen or more longtime city employees with termination a few weeks ago, in a ploy to bully City Council into amending the city’s residency ordinance to save the hide of Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Attorney Jim Manahan has now filed an order to show cause, which seeks to save the livelihood of the employees and have the court block Mayor Palmer’s unthinkable decision to terminate them, only to save Mr. Santiago.

Mr. Manahan, in section of 17 of his brief, said it best:

“In fact, this course of action by the City is not based upon any legitimate and honest interpretation of the ordinance in light of the court’s decision…but rather is a politically motivated action designed to coerce the City Council of the City of Trenton to revise the ordinance in such a manner as to legislatively overrule the court and allow the public official (Santiago) named in that action to remain in office.”

Mr. Manahan hit the nail right on the head. Once again, Mayor Palmer’s officials seem to have lost all touch with reality, willing to stop at nothing to save the Police Director from the judge’s gavel.

What is ridiculous about the city’s position is that the employees in question were not granted a residency waiver under the city’s own ordinance, but actually had their residency waived by the Department of Personnel, which manages the hiring and testing of city workers.

Note to Palmer and his lawyers: state law supercedes Trenton’s law, no matter how the two might conflict, and Judge Feinberg did not throw out the state statute regarding waiving residency, just Trenton’s.

Also, it is unthinkable that Judge Feinberg, in throwing out the city’s waiver provision, was calling for any employees waived under that rule to retroactively be subject to termination.

In a letter to City Council that later morphed into a Times of Trenton Op/Ed, Mayor Palmer said administration officials had begun reviewing the files of city employees, and only recently “discovered” some had received waivers under the city’s ordinance, and now faced termination.

All of these statements were broad lies made to the entire public.

Not only did Mayor Palmer and company know about these waivers, as evidenced by employment certifications that disclosed in no uncertain terms that these employees had their residency waived, but they knew they were state-waived, and not waived under the provisions of the city’s own residency ordinance.

But, despite all of this, Palmer administration officials were ready to fire these city workers tomorrow morning, on the tenuous theory that because a judge threw out Trenton’s residency waiver provisions last month, these Department of Personnel-waived employees were subject to termination.

In fact, sources said the only reason they didn’t terminate the employees weeks ago was that union representation, before turning to Mr. Manahan, actually told administration officials they would lobby City Council to amend the law to save the workers.

Smelling blood in the water, Mayor Palmer and Ms. Feigenbaum apparently delayed the termination date, until tomorrow.

Even that date now faces a delay, because with the filing of the papers today Judge Feinberg has scheduled a 10 a.m. conference on Thursday, where she could potentially confront city officials and ask exactly what power gave them the ability to terminate these state-waived employees, retroactively, because of her own decision.

Should get interesting in those chambers. Stay tuned.

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