Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chief's Job Abolished

In a split vote Wednesday, the City Council agreed to abolish to position of chief of police, and then approved creation of a civilian police director post.

While some have called it a personal political vendetta and others have deemed it a necessary move for better management, the reorganization will take effect at about the same time in April that a layoff plan targeting Police Chief Edward Santiago kicks in.

Council members Cory Storch and Linda Carter voted “no” to abolishing the post. Council President Harold Gibson abstained and council members Rashid Burney, Elliott Simmons, Don Davis and William Reid voted “yes.”

In the second vote, all but Storch agreed to establish a civilian police director.

But pulling the job out from under him will not remove Santiago, who said he will take the option of reverting to captain status while he awaits a decision on an injunction to negate the governing body’s action.

The prelude to the vote included pleas from residents and business owners to drop the plan. Santiago also took to the public microphone to read a resolution from the State Assembly supporting him. But he said the support he enjoyed from 1998 to 2005 later vanished when he was then branded as “not a team player” by Assemblyman Jerry Green at a meeting with a local business group.

Santiago alleged Green told the business group he would not help them unless they helped him remove Santiago and said three people will testify to that account.

Santiago supporters Wednesday included Dr. Harold Yood, who said, “I don’t see how the city can benefit” if the Police Division comes under the control of “a political appointee.”

The new law calls for a civilian police director appointed by the mayor to serve concurrently with the mayor’s four-year term. In contrast, once appointed, a police chief may serve through many administrations.

Business owner Nimrod Webb said the city may have bad roads and schools, but he has always been able to rely on the chief.

“You’ve got a man here who’s put his life here,” Webb said. “I’m begging you, table this matter. This is a bad move.”

John Kavanaugh, business owner and president of the city’s Special Improvement District (Correction: Lisa Cohen is president and Nimrod Webb is vice president), offered a family anecdote about his grandfather, who suffered various injustices as a police chief for his stand on human rights versus politics.

“Please keep our police chief,” Kavanaugh asked.

Santiago said he hoped to keep the cell phone number that he has given out to many residents.

“I will still be here for you,” he said. “I’m here for you irrespective of what happens tonight.”

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, what kind of help can Jerry Green give? He brought money to the school and had it named an Abbot school district. Seems to me Plainfield squandered the money - we still have no viable school district (disaster). He brought money to Muhlenberg, which is about to be closed (disaster). What has this guy done that is so wonderful for the citizens of Plainfield?

Also, if he did threaten anyone, and they are willing to testify to it - was there some law broken? At the very least, call the reporters who cover Plainfield for the Courier News and Star Ledger (Alexi Friedman and Brandon Bausch) and ask them to look into it. Give them the names of the people who will testify, and if this is true, let's start loosening the stranglehold he has on Plainfield. Remember, it's the votes from the people who count. They have not counted so far because people are not involved and don't vote - so really who is to blame?

9:58 AM  

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