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Dear Mr. Mayor

As e-mailed 9-25-14:

Dear Mayor Jackson:

For much of the last three months, I have been mostly cautiously optimistic that your new administration is making a promising start to unwinding the massive damage to the City of Trenton and its local government sustained over the last four years. You’ve started to rehabilitate the City’s reputation. It has a long, long way to go, but I’ve generally feel encouraged.

However, amid the many positive signs of progress – the mostly drama-free appointment of department directors and senior staff, early success in winning key grants to help restore the town’s public safety departments, a transition report that lays out an ambitious agenda for your team, ┬ámending relationships with Trenton’s neighbors in the County and the State – I still find too many frequent nagging indications that much of the Same Old Business As Usual is back in effect. These are troubling to me, and threaten to undermine a lot of your early progress. Specifically, I refer to the ongoing leftover baggage from your campaign finances that I have been bothered with for months.

Contributions to your campaign from the ICE PAC Political Action Committee and its close association with the Long Marmero law firm raised questions of conflicts of interest and violations of the spirit if not the letter of the city’s Pay-to-Play (P2P) Ordinance in the first weeks of your administration.

The donation to your campaign was specifically cited by the Executive Director of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) in his call to strengthen New Jersey’s statewide P2P legislation. In his August 14 article in PolitickerNJ.com, ELEC’s Jeff Brindle sees the need for new legislation to “offset some of the increasing influence of independent groups over our electoral system…[and] help to dispel the confusion that often reigns at the local level of politics as evidenced by the situation in Trenton.”

So, to outside but knowledgeable observers we still have a “situation in Trenton!” And unfortunately, for the many signs of forward movement, there is still some leftover baggage from your campaign that, unless corrected, will continue to suggest we will have a “situation” here for some time to come.

Baggage such as we read in today’s Trenton Times. In Jenna Pizzi’s story about the reconstitution and first meeting of the “Mayor’s Economic Advisory Council,” Ms. Pizzi reports that one of the members of this Council is former Senator Robert Torricelli. Mr. Torricelli generously contributed to your mayoral campaign. There is nothing wrong with that by itself.

But Mr. Torricelli’s total contributions exceed the legal minimum allowed under state ELEC law. Unless and until your campaign returns the excess amount – $1,000 – I do not believe it is appropriate for Mr. Torricelli to sit on your Council or any public body of the City of Trenton.

This should not be news to you. I wrote in this space back in April that Mr. Torricelli had, under his own name as well as that of his Woodrose Development LLC, donated to your campaign a total of $3,600, whereas the legal maximum permitted is only $2,600. I wrote on April 22, “Since the maximum donation allowable from any one individual for a campaign is $2600, Mr. Torricelli has exceeded the legal maximum by $1000. Mr. Jackson now has to refund an excess of $1000.”

I reported those numbers ┬ábased on disclosures made by your campaign’s own ELEC reporting, should there be any doubt of the accuracy of that number.

However, from April 22 to today, as evidenced by your subsequent filings with ELEC, your campaign has failed to return the excess contribution as state law would require. You have not even acknowledged a problem with the excess contribution.

I don’t know why you have not yet done so. But if, as I would hope and expect, you want to focus on the early positive steps you and your Administration have been taking, you should swiftly take action which would help to get rid of much of the baggage carried over from your campaign.

Continuing to ignore this problem – as you have since April – you may risk clouding the productive things you are doing, and help perpetuate a feeling that despite the publicly visible forward motion there is still a “situation in Trenton” under the surface.

Whenever you do things like hold on to that excess money and let Mr. Torricelli sit on your Council, you do a disservice to Trenton’s citizens, and allow a perception that the bad old ethically suspect days are not all behind us.

I don’t want that. I can’t believe you want that either.

Sincerely,

Kevin Moriarty

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