In countries where the government is organized around a parliamentary system, such as the UK, there is a mechanism called a “Motion of No Confidence.” With this motion a Parliament votes on whether the existing government continues to earn the trust and confidence of the legislature – and, by extension, the people who elected them – or whether that government is so weakened, so lacking in the privilege of public confidence that they should no longer serve in office. Despite the actual legal term of office a government is elected to serve, if effectiveness is lost, if confidence is lost, then a government goes.
This morning, I sure wish that we had a way to have such a vote in Trenton. The news today goes a long way towards losing the confidence I have in Mayor Mack and his Administration.
Less than a week after Bill Guhl resigned under circumstances that suggest the financial management of this City is in disarray, we read of several new distressing developments. One, scant weeks after appointing Eric Jackson as Assistant Business Administrator, the Mayor demoted his former election opponent and Palmer administration holdover to a lower position in the Trenton Water Works, one of the departments that Jackson administered a little over a month ago when he was Director of Public Works. By itself, this move would seem a settling of a political score. A mite petty, perhaps, and a little demeaning, but in the context of city politics, not unprecedented.
But wait! We also read of the dismissal of former Councilwoman Cordelia Staton from her position at the City Clerk’s office yesterday, reportedly via a termination letter left at her desk yesterday while she was out at lunch! The way that Ms. Staton received her appointment from the previous Council was, to say the least, irregular. There were several questions about the process by which her position was posted, how she was hired, and rumors about whether her appointment as Deputy was prelude to a deal to install her as permanent City Clerk. Yesterday’s dismissal makes that kind of moot.
The manner of that dismissal – via a ruling by the city’s Law Department that didn’t even gather the support of Council president Muschal – leaves that action looking like yet another move by the Mayor to cut off a political loose end from the previous administration. But this move also looks like stepping on the toes and prerogatives of City Council by moving against a Council appointee.
Those two actions are only context to what has to be the most troubling news this morning – the criminal background and personal business failures of the person appointed by Mayor Mack as his second Acting Director of Housing and Economic Development.
All you can say to this is Whoa!! Read Meir Rinde’s article for the details; I don’t need to repeat them here. Mr. Mack’s defense of Mr. Badger is, amazingly, way off the mark. “We don’t discuss personal matters… It’s in his past…He’s.. paid his debt to society.”The Mayor also refers to Mr. Badger as holding a “banking and real estate license,” even though the reporter could find no evidence of a current real estate license. I hope the Mayor isn’t confusing the fact that Real Estate licenses in this state are issued by the Department of Banking and Insurance (full disclosure: I have one) with an impression that a Real Estate License is also a Banking license. It’s not.
An appointment like this to a Director’s position isn’t a “personal matter.” It’s a very, very public one. The head of Housing and Economic Development is often the city’s point person in any dealings with developers or businesses seeking to do business in and with the City. This position is crucial in establishing a sense of confidence and trust in our town as a place to come and build. Is a convicted thief and indicted forger the right person to do this? No Way!!!
I have called the Mayor’s office to say I don’t believe that Mr. Badger is appropriate for that job. I have also emailed each member of Council to ask them to review these personnel decisions, specifically Mr. Badger’s appointment. Additionally, I asked Council that should Mr. Mack nominate Mr. Badger to be permanent director, they conduct a very strong and vigorous confirmation process.
In the latter part of the election this Spring, charges were made against Mr. Mack regarding his association with a campaign donor with an unsavory and criminal background. Taken with everything else we’ve seen in the last week – Mr. Guhl’s resignation, Mr. Jackson’s demotion, Ms. Staton’s dismissal, and now Mr. Badger’s criminal background – this is all evidence of a Mayor who must have a great deal of self-confidence and trust in his own abilities and the strength of his position.
That self-confidence is looking more like bravado and very likely to be misplaced, because he is rapidly squandering ours.