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Friday, June 20, 2008

The chasm is widening

The rift between City Council and the Palmer administration grew larger Thursday as council members scolded administration officials for blindsiding them with city ordinance revisions and additional appropriations to pay off expensive lawyers defending former Police Director Joseph Santiago in his residency battle.

West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue apparently got into an exchange with administration officials after they produced an ordinance legalizing earlier appointments of municipal court judges, which seemed to display the administration's usual attitude of considering council votes a purely ceremonial affair.

"Council is the proper authority," Ms. Lartigue reportedly said, after Assistant Business Administrator Dennis "Rasputin" Gonzalez told council that the administration had already consulted the "proper authority" before producing the ordinance revisions.

Hopefully Ms. Lartigue's comments indicate that the councilwoman is going to move away from siding with the administration, as she has so frequently done of late. That would provide the "Best 4 Trenton" slate of Milford Bethea, Jim Coston, Gino Melone, and Manny Segura with a decisive fifth vote.

Having five votes would allow them to vote to dismiss intransigent administration officials from employment with the city, almost at will.

Those kind of actions have become appropriate with the continued disrespect shown towards council by Mayor Palmer's political officials, exemplified by Mr. Gonzalez's actions on Thursday and a series of lies uttered by Mr. Santiago to a group of council officials and residents at a civic meeting earlier this week in Chambersburg.

Also of interest were reports of a split vote on the appropriation of lawyer's fees to attorneysrepresenting Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago during the residency battle, which will likely be concluded next week.

It was unfortunate that Mr. Melone and Mr. Coston were absent from Thursday's meeting, as the addition of those two would have provided those voting against the lawyers' fees with the votes necessary to kill the appropriations, which included payments to a lawyers whose client was not a person, but "the City of Trenton."

That would be a nice show of force and an appropriate step to show the administration that the city's coffers are not some sort of endless pit to dig money out of to defend favored city employees.

It remains unclear when it became city policy to pay attorneys defending city employees in civil suits.

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