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Friday, January 25, 2008

Of Assemblyman Green, Chief Santiago and Thomas à Becket

As Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green thundered 'I will not be intimidated' before a rump Council composed of four Councilors -- Linda Carter, William Reid and Elliott Simmons, with Councilor Rashid Burney presiding pro-tem -- the struggle between Henry II and Thomas à Becket came to mind.

Assemblyman Green's remark was electrifying, not because anyone was attempting to intimidate HIM, but rather because it was a frank and straightforward indication that the campaign against Police Chief Ed Santiago is the Assemblyman's own, and all the other actors through whom he makes his moves are mere pieces on his chessboard.

So, with clean hands and pure hearts, this rump Council adopted a resolution that contemplates a Police Division without a chief.

For those who have been watching, Thursday's move was foreshadowed in a presentation by Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig to the City Council last summer, in which he proposed a reorganization of the Police Division that would eliminate the chief's position. At the time, it was disclosed that Hellwig had not informed Chief Santiago prior to the meeting and the chief was caught completely by surprise. Ambushed, to put it in a word.

As much as speaking in favor of Chief Santiago last evening, the public was incensed that the resolution had not been divulged at Tuesday's agenda-setting session, but was revealed in a Star-Ledger article on Thursday morning, which included quotes from Councilors Gibson, Burney and Simmons that they were in favor of the action.

Buttery as Councilor Burney's words were last evening, it became clear from Assemblyman Green's statements that the move was long in planning, that consultations had been held with the state's Department of Personnel ALREADY, and that the Council was IN THE LOOP.

Councilor Burney has been providing a great service to the community in posting the Council agendas, resolutions and ordinances online through his website (since the Administration, now in its third year, cannot seem to get its act together).

However, you will look in vain for any mention of the resolution for a police reorganization plan on the Councilor's website (look here
"January 20-22 Documents"), which makes it look like there was collusion on the part of the Council in not making the move public in an effort to slip it by with as little public outcry as possible.

As it was a power struggle between Henry II and Becket, so it is between Assemblyman Green and his surrogates in the Robinson-Briggs administration with Chief Santiago.

This is made perfectly clear by Public Safety Director Hellwig, as quoted in today's Courier --

Hellwig said the reorganization is instead an attempt to add a level of performance accountability he said is mitigated by 'an overly protective bubble or shield around the office of the chief of police' that is regulated by the state Chiefs' Responsibility Act. A police director, Hellwig said, would report to him, the city administrator and the mayor.
Meaning that the Police Division's leadership would be emasculated and subject to control of politically-appointed officials.

It has seemed possible to me that this is all smoke-and-mirrors to get rid of Chief Santiago and NOT NECESSARILY to leave Plainfield without a police chief in perpetuity.

Why would I say that? Consider for a moment what Councilor Simmons is quoted as saying in yesterday's Ledger story --
"You can always correct the things as you go along. If it doesn't work, we do have the option. Nothing is set in stone."
So, is THAT the plan? Get rid of Santiago and -- after a decent interval -- reinstate the police chief's position, presumably with a more malleable person in the role?

the struggle between Henry II and Thomas à Becket worked its way to a seemingly inevitable conflict and resolution, Henry is said to have remarked at table 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?'

These words were interpreted as a command by four of Henry's knights, who betook themselves to Canterbury and assassinated the archbishop inside the cathedral on his way to evening Vespers, hacking him to death, and with one of them splitting his head open and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "they slew him where he stood, scattering his brains on the pavement."

Earliest known representation of Becket's assassination.

But Becket had his revenge.

A little more than two years after his assassination, he was sainted, and a year after that Henry did public penance at Becket's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, being stripped and publicly scourged.

Chief Santiago may yet have HIS justice served.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

At least the council as a whole, the public, media and Santiago were informed of the administrations intent. This gave all an opportunity to voice opinions, do research and make an informed decision in this matter. This is far more professional and straightforward then former Mayor McWilliams loathsome act before the council in the dismissal of the former Public Safety Director.

Anonymous said...

Councilor Burney has once again shown that he will do anything, say anything, to stay in the good graces of Jerry Green, his mentor. This is simply another of his cowardly public acts. The first was when he voted "no confidence" in Adrian Mapp at a 2005 democratic committee meeting at the behest of Jerry Green. Mapp supported Burney's candidacy and with his family, walked the streets in support of Burney, and what did Burney do? He stabbed him in the back. Now we have Burney and Carter (a surprise!) suddenly going along with this baldfaced attempt to get rid of Chief Santiago. They have presented no reasons to their constituents. Burney will be up for reelection in November of 2010. Maybe he's hoping that by doing Jerry Green's bidding he will be given the democratic line. It worked when he stabbed Mapp in the back so maybe it will work again.

Anonymous said...


What is Council President Gibson's role in this? He is a former cop and county director of public safety. He has been greatly supported by police chiefs. What is his opinion on this as a cop?

Dan said...

To the person who asked about Councilor Gibson's position, here is the quote from Thursday's Ledger story --
"Council President Harold Gibson said he would vote for the layoff plan and believed 'the council, as a general statement, will support it.'"

Anonymous said...

What a shame that there were only four council members present for something that may lead to such detrimental consequences for the city of Plainfield. I sent a letter to our councilperson that went unanswered and unacknowledged. Machine Politics as usual and with recent promotions in Trenton, I believe all citizens in Planfield will be for more dictatorship politics in Plainfield. The people in the 4th ward though will come out and continue to support the current administration and continue to be forgotten after re-election!

Anonymous said...

Professional is not a word that I would use to describe anything this administration/Jerry Green has and is doing to this City. We have a council president who is so tied into JG and CD the Union County Dem. Party. The rest of council are such cowards that they refuse to have a voice and stand up for the people who elected them. This whole sisuation with the Chief is designed by JG and his puppets to remove the Chief and then go back and reinstate the position and then bring in someone with ties to the Union County Dem. chairwoman or someone whos payback is still due for the support during Robinson-Briggs run. If there was ever a City that need Chris Christy to come in and do an investigation it would be this administration.

Anonymous said...

the name jerry green is beginning to give me the same queasy feeling i get when i see the name george bush.

plainfield will be much better off without him anywhere near city hall.