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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revisit residency editorial

The Times of Trenton misrepresented events in the Police Director Joseph Santiago residency controversy in an editorial Wednesday.

The most glaring factual errors in the piece were statements regarding the reasons behind the invalidation of a residency waiver granted to Mr. Santiago by the court. The editorial states that happened because Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that the residency’s waiver provision was inconsistent with state law.

The real reason why the waiver was tossed was out of recognition that Mayor Douglas H. Palmer never had the ability to grant such an extra-legal waiver.

All Mayor Palmer actually did was issue some piece of city stationery that stated Mr. Santiago did not have to abide by the residency ordinance, unlike nearly every other city employee.

Judge Feinberg saw that such an action had no legal weight at all. It did not even follow the path prescribed by the City of Trenton’s old residency waiver provision, which was eventually thrown out.

She correctly recognized that Mayor Palmer granted no waiver, but rather simply decided that Mr. Santiago did not have to follow the law, because that was the supreme will of the mayor at the time.

Responsibility for the total elimination of any waiver provision lies squarely on the shoulders of the attorneys for Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago, who saw that the best defense was to take a stance that the ENTIRE ordinance was invalid and should be thrown out, after apparently recognizing the earlier waiver was illegal.

They based this defense on the notion that the city's residency waiver provision was not perfectly consistent with the language of state law that delineates how residency laws and waiver should work.

All that succeeded in doing was having the entire waiver provision thrown out, leaving Trenton with the super-strong residency ordinance that worked so well for nearly 20 years, without waivers or exemptions, when the city had around 60,000 more inhabitants and a much better economy.

Unlike what was stated in today’s editorial, what has actually happened was that Judge Feinberg stated to the world that Mayor Palmer is not some sort of superhuman god who can bend and change the law as he sees fit.

She saw that he is a democratically elected official who swore to uphold the residency law, without regard to his preference for certain employees over others.

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