Skewed Priorities

Let’s review.

A long-running dust-up between a Trenton City Council member and the city’s Deputy Clerk leads to an investigation by one of the Trenton’s many outside law firms, resulting in a 32-page report, several closed Executive sessions of Council, and a bill from the law firm which is reportedly in the $25,000 range.

THIS is worth all this effort, according to the City. THIS requires a Report!

Trenton’s payroll service steals nearly Five Million Dollars over at least a six-month period. During that time, and for months beforehand, several warning notices and bills are sent to the City of Trenton by the Internal Revenue Service and the State of New Jersey. Apart from a few email exchanges between one city clerk and the payroll service, nothing seems to have happened for almost a year. Clearly, a combination of People, Policies and Procedures all failed. On a massive scale. Five Million Dollars worth.

THIS, however, doesn’t get an investigation. THIS doesn’t get a report!

Oh, sure, last March Mayor Eric Jackson announced an “audit” and “internal review” of what led to The Great Payroll Robbery. But that was the last anyone has heard of that. There has been no Report, no Council Executive Sessions, no firings, no restructuring. In fact, the City was very emphatic that recent staff hires had nothing at all to do with the aftermath of the Payroll Robbery.

Seems to me that the Eric Jackson Administration and City Council have some pretty skewed priorities, when an intramural conflict gets a Report, and a Five Million Dollar robbery doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. The so-called “Staton/Holly-Ward” report strikes me as serious. The allegations made by Councilmembers Phyllis Holly-Ward and George Muschal about what is contained in the report are serious. It does sound like there are major problems in the City Clerk’s Office that were uncovered by the investigators from the DeCotiis Fitzpatrick law firm, and written up. It also seems to me that the City is anxious to keep the 32-page report closely under wraps because its findings and conclusions probably differ from those the Administration hoped it would discuss. This report probably finds fault with the person the City did not want to find fault with. All this secrecy reflects major embarrassment on the part of the Administration, if you ask me.

If Cordelia Staton is, as suggested by Ms. Holly-Ward to the Trentonian, applying for the main City Clerk’s position, then the DeCotiis Report will have to be publicly released. There is no way that Ms. Staton, or anyone in her position, could be considered for a promotion while a major investigative report highly relevant to her performance in her current position is being withheld and kept from public knowledge.

Councilmembers Muschal and Holly-Ward suggest that the findings of the report are so damning that they will make it impossible for Ms. Staton to keep her current position. That may be, or it may not. Without access to the actual report, those claims are hard to evaluate one way or the other. But I feel that further suppression of the DeCotiis report should be a deal-breaker for any consideration of Staton for Clerk. No public release, no promotion.

Back to my main point. All the brouhaha over the “Staton/Holly-Ward Report” from DeCotiis does deserve to be taken seriously, on its own merits.

But all of the attention over the conflict in the Clerk’s Office which led to a $25,000 Investigation and Report only serves to underscore the LACK of equivalent – or more, considering the scale of that disaster!- attention paid one year after to the Great Payroll Robbery and its failures, and the ABSENCE of any investigation and Report on that matter.

That we ARE talking about the “Staton/Holly Ward Report” and NOT talking about any “Payroll Robbery Report” shows that priorities in the City of Trenton are pretty skewed.

No, let me not mince words. The priorities of the Jackson Administration and Trenton City Council are just fucked-up.

Where’s the “Payroll Robbery Report?”

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