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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Trenton should demand answers

Trenton City Council and city residents deserve to know what preparations the current administration is making for the looming departure of former Police Director Joseph Santiago from the helm of the city's police department.

A court-ordered removal process initiated in July gave Mr. Santiago 75 days to complete what many hoped would be an orderly and seamless transition out of Trenton, after the director was judged to have openly broken the city's residency ordinance, which carries a penalty of immediate removal from office.

Despite the court's decision to provide a significant amount of time for work on the power transition to Mr. Santiago and the Palmer administration officials on the losing side of the court battle, neither City Council nor city residents have any idea about the identity of the person who will be taking over the city's 300-person police department.

In a city suffering from a public safety image problem, leadership is key. Yet administration officials remain mum about whatever plans are being hatched about the post-Santiago era of Trenton policing, even though it appears that the same officials, or maybe even Mayor Palmer himself, have been floating trial balloons in the public arena to gauge reaction.

They came in the form of unsubstantiated news reports complete with anonymous sources saying that Mr. Santiago is moving into Trenton, in what appeared to be a tool utilized to "feel out" the reaction of opponents should Mayor Palmer and Mr. Santiago announce that the ousted director had moved into the city.

Thankfully such an occurrence is highly unlikely, given that Mr. Santiago would have to move his entire family down from sunny Stirling, N.J. into some abode within Trenton city limits. That certainly appears to have a very low probability of occurring.

But whatever ends up happening, City Council members and the general public need to demand answers at the upcoming Sept. 4 council meeting. An appropriate reaction to continued stonewalling would come in the form of another council work stoppage, or even better, the initiation of removal hearings for a high-ranking administration official.

The administration needs to come to understand that, like the people they represent, City Council means business.

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