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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Drifting rudderless

Former Police Director Joseph Santiago is apparently the master when it comes to who will be chosen to succeed Trenton’s ousted head cop, and it looks like he is doing nothing about it as the police force drifts nearly rudderless.

That much was clear from a piece in The Trentonian today, in which city spokesman Kent Ashworth first avoided providing any information on the city’s succession plan, and then deferred to the director himself when it came to how the next director would be chosen and who the person will be.

This comes after one avenue to Mr. Santiago’s salvation as city police director was closed this week, when the director failed to appeal earlier court decisions that effectively ousted him. That certainly seemed to vindicate the position that Mr. Santiago and Mayor Douglas H. Palmer were wrong in maintaining that the mayor has the power to enforce city law as he sees fit.

About rumors that Mr. Santiago will separate from his wife, establish a pseudo-residence in Trenton, and circumvent a decision that four different judges and hundreds of thousands of city tax dollars determined, Mr. Ashworth once again punted.

"We are way too busy with genuine needs and issues to dignify or comment on rumors," said Mr. Ashworth, to The Trentonian’s Joe D’Aquila. "When there is a real development, as opposed to speculation, however, we will have an announcement - as soon as it is both appropriate and accurate."

Mr. Ashworth also did not provide any comment in portions of the story where police officers said Mr. Santiago has frequently been absent from the city of late, despite the blossoming public safety crisis, a situation which they called the norm during the five years of Mr. Santiago's tenure.

So it appears that Mayor Palmer and his administration are doing nothing to follow court orders and begin preparing for a transition from Mr. Santiago’s leadership – which seems to becoming more ineffective with each day – to the leadership of someone else.

It appears that Mr. Santiago and Mayor Palmer are acting like a bunch of schoolchildren who just lost a dodgeball match, refusing to acknowledge defeat and move on. This will probably be the path taken, until the very last minute on that day in September when Mr. Santiago will have to pack his bags and move on out of Trenton.

Answers should be provided at the August 7 City Council meeting, when administration officials will likely face questions from council members curious about who will be take over and be forced to deal with a worsening crime wave.

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