Hanging On

This week, Trenton has once again achieved a World-Class ranking!

Upon his Friday conviction on federal charges of extortion, bribery, wire fraud, etc. the travails of Tony F. Mack were featured on this week’s “Corruption Currents” page on the Wall Street Journal’s website, a summary of the Global Leaders in Bribery, Cybercrime, Money Laundering, Sanctions, Whistleblowers and – since one size cannot fit all types of wrongdoing – “General Anti-Corruption.”

This is the Convicted Occupant of Trenton’s Mayor’s Office second recent appearance on the weekly rundown. This space noted back in December his first inclusion among the World’s Crookedest along with compatriots in places as far afield as India, Guinea, Algeria and Wall Street. The December ranking was based on anticipation of his then-upcoming January Federal trial.

With the jury verdict of guilty on all charges, the Convicted Extortionist makes it back to number 2 on this week’s Corruption Rundown, sandwiched between an unnamed “former Greek defense ministry official [who] took so many bribes that he can’t remember them all. (NY Times),” and “Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone [who] expects to be cleared of bribery charges. (BBC).”

Elsewhere in the weekly summary of global sleaze are reports that “[a]nother Turkish member of parliament quit, marking the ninth since a massive graft scandal broke in December,  (Hurriyet) [and] an Israeli mayor was suspended for nearly a year as he fights corruption charges. (Haaretz)”

It kind of makes you feel that It’s A Small World After All, doesn’t it, that Trenton’s Own can be considered on the same page as such a real world-class jerk as “The former head of Brazil’s state-owned bank, convicted for his role in a corruption scandal, was arrested in Italy after three months on the run. (Irish Times)?”

Of course, by this point in our local story, I had long expected to be speaking of of our Convicted Bribe-Taker and Conspirator in the past tense. I had not considered that the wheels of post-verdict justice would have continued to grind so slowly so as to allow the fraudster convicted by a jury of his peers on all the counts on which he was charged to still retain the title he shamelessly clings to.

Yes, the Convicted Federal Felon remains, in name only if not form, the mayor of the city of Trenton. The legal process by which he would be removed from office is a longer one than anticipated, and the man so far refuses to take the same action that neighboring Hamilton’s former mayor John Bencivengo took one day after his conviction on federal graft charges in 2012: that is, compose a short note resigning his office to allow the town he served to move on to recovery and healing without any unseemly delay.

By doing so, he leaves his city and himself twisting in the wind, for no constructive purpose whatsoever. Whatever he thinks he is doing by refusing to resign, we are told in today’s press accounts that “His [eventual] removal [by court order] will be retroactive to the day of his conviction, meaning any executive actions by him can be immediately reversed by his successor.” This means also that any salary due to him will also end on the say of his conviction, meaning last Friday. So it’s not as if he is going to see another dime in income from this job.

When he returns to the federal courtroom of Judge Michael Shipp in May for sentencing, the judge will not look kindly on the way the convicted thief had to be forcibly ejected from his office. When a judge passes sentence, they customarily like to see some evidence of contrition or remorse from the convict, some sense that the enormity of their acts has reached him finally, leading him to make some attempt at amends before being called to begin paying his debt to society.

Who knows, a prompt resignation such as Bencivengo’s might result in some consideration at sentencing for Mack.  In that case, the ex-Hamilton mayor could have received five to six years if the federal prosecutor’s request had been granted. Instead, US District Judge Anne Thompson handed down a sentence of 3 years and 2 months for his official crimes. Despite the gravity of the crimes found to have been committed by him, expressions and actions showing remorse will probably have a moderating influence.

However, those actions and expressions have to be made in order to be considered!

So far, four days and counting after the verdict, there has been no resignation, nor any kind of statement from the man. He remains, in title if not in any kind of meaningful real way, the mayor. Which means Trenton continues to lack any leadership from that office, as it has for the last several months if not years.

It also means something else. Over the weekend, as Trentonians heard Friday’s news and pondered its impact, I read and heard from several folks who reflected on the personal consequences of the conviction on the lives of his family and loved ones. “Think of what this does to his wife and children!” was a common sentiment when reflecting on the imminence of federal prison time for the man and his brother, also convicted on the same day. This is, sadly, a real and personal tragedy that will impact the lives of several innocent individuals. And yes, I do consider their position and feel bad for them.

But only to a point. By his unexplained pigheadedness and refusal to take the one final honorable and graceful action available to him, a prompt and timely resignation, Tony F. Mack is proving yet again that he is valuing not the best interests of his family, but his own greedy, selfish vanity.

With each new hour that passes without news of a resignation note he shows the world that he is NOT “thinking of his wife and family,” that their continued shame and embarrassment matters not a whit to him, and that beyond that, he does not give a damn about the other 85,000 souls in this City who have to wait – again – to finally move on and start to build a post-Mack Trenton.

I should have guessed that the manner of his leaving would be no different in his self-centered narcissism than the four years that came before.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that he is as much of a coward after his conviction as he was before.

But I am. This story is likely to have at least a few more twists and turns in it before it staggers to its inevitable conclusion, sorry to say.

But, going forward, please, please spare me any more anguished concern for his family! If the man himself can’t be bothered to do this one thing on their behalf, uselessly hanging on to his job to no possible productive end, I for one will shed not a tear for them, nor for him.

5 comments to Hanging On

  • Well said. Thanks! but, Point of order though…If someone has not been in their position, job, post, for thirty calendar days, they are considered terminated. I believe it is called abandoned their position. I have used this at Ellarslie.

  • Kevin

    Thanks, Santa – That 30-day rule may work for most regular employees and appointees. But an elected official’s term is defined by ordinance, both city and state. There are different standards and procedures laid out for absences temporary and long-term.

    I wish it were easier, Lord knows.

  • ed w

    I hope city counsel demands back pay for the months he has been not performing his duties. unfortunately that probably to much to ask.

  • Lily

    So well said, Kevin. The “manner of his leaving” was bound to be as indicative of his character as all his other crimes against law and morality. The damage he has done to the city he pledged to serve will take countless folks of good will, imagination, and determination years to repair. Can we find public servants up to the job?

    I, too, regret the harm he has done to his family. But he needs to pay his debt to society, just as every other convicted felon is expected to.

  • Penn Sta

    I just want you to know how very much I appreciate your writing this, how discouraging it must be to watch him day by day.