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Monday, February 18, 2008

Robinson-Briggs pits Santiago against Santiago?

God bless Plainfield Councilor Rashid Burney. If it weren't for his email blast Sunday evening, you might not know of a very special guest at Tuesday's Council agenda-setting session (Monday is President's Day) and you would not have had a head's up about the guest's upcoming presentation.

Newark Police Director Joseph Santiago (left) celebrates
Newark Mayor Sharpe James' 2002 election victory
over challenger -- now mayor -- Cory Booker.

Mr. Joseph Santiago, police director under Mayor Doug Palmer for the city of Trenton, will be present at the invitation of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs' administration to discuss the role and function of a civilian police director, and presumably take questions from the Council.

The Green/Robinson-Briggs administration is currently making a full court press to eliminate the position of Plainfield's police chief. A hand-crafted layoff-plan-for-one (Chief Edward Santiago) was recently submitted to the state, which must approve it before the Administration can administer the coup de grĂ¢ce through an ordinance to eliminate the position.

Many will be familiar with police director Joe Santiago's long career in New Jersey law enforcement.

A natty dresser and hard-charging administrator, Santiago served as Sharpe James' police director in Newark for six years before being nominated to run the State Police by Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2002. His confirmation hearings were contentious, to say the least, but Santiago squeaked through.

At the time,
a review of his 6-year tenure as Newark's police director showed that of 551 grievances lodged against him, 445 had been resolved -- 435 in favor of the union (see NY Times story here).

In October of that same year, 2002, Santiago resigned his post as head of the State Police when connections with a reputed mobster surfaced (see WNBC story here). The flames had been fanned by state police officers who resented both his management style and his penchant for perks -- including wanting to wear the State Police uniform (to which he was not entitled, having never been a State Police officer), and lavish decorating expenses for his office.

The Attorney General's office issued a report on the furnishings scandal,
citing violations of state public purchasing laws in trying to outfit his office with $105,000 in furnishings (see AG's findings here).

More egregious were Santiago's attempts to force subordinates to supply him copies of confidential internal files on himself and other State Police executives, for which he was also cited by the Attorney General's office
(see AG's findings here).

Eventually hired as Trenton's police director by Mayor Doug Palmer, controversy has managed to follow Santiago even there.

In May, 2007, Santiago
created a stir in the City Council and the media over the appropriateness of having four on-duty Trenton police officers accompany him to his father-in-law's funeral (see Trentonian story here).

In August, 2007, according to the Trenton Times, Santiago hired retired Newark police chief Irving Bradley as communications director for Trenton's PD (see the Times' story here). His hiring created a furor among Trenton police officers, who allege Santiago, as Bradley's boss in 1998, gave special treatment to Bradley after he resisted arrest and assaulted police officers after a DWI incident while driving an unmarked Newark police vehicle in Rahway. Bradley's uncle was on the Newark City Council, and suspicions linger that politics played a role in the light treatment Bradley received(see more here).

Most recently, Santiago has been at the center of an ongoing feud between Mayor Palmer and the Trenton City Council over allegations of Santiago's failure to reside in Trenton. [
Bill Osterman's 'Trenton Facts' website has an extensive story detailing his research into determining that Santiago evidently lives in Stirling, just up the hill from Plainfield (see more here).]

Residency clauses are standard in many cities -- including Plainfield -- but waivers are customarily given by City Councils so that mayors can assemble the management team they want. It would appear that no waiver was ever granted for Santiago by the Trenton City Council.

Be sure to come early Tuesday, as seating is limited in City Hall Library.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

Dan, Joseph Santiago is probably the MOST DISCREDITED police official in the state of New Jersey!! Why on earth would the mayor bring someone like him to our town to explain the role of the civilian director? Hellwig would not even be doing the same thing as Joseph Santiago is doing in Trenton! Joseph Santiago's mob connection should have been enough for the Trenton council to not hire him, but Sharon and Jerry and the city council think this guy should be the one telling Plainfielders about the function of our public safety and police department?? This is so laughable. It makes Plainfield city government even more embarrassing than I though it could get.

Anonymous said...

i'm appalled that the mayor and mr. green are wasting time and money on this issue. when there are buildings collapsing, drugs being sold on streets, not enough housing for our citizens, and so many other issues to tackle.

it's such an old trick to try to fool people with the illusion of progress by making big changes that, in the end, amount to nothing.

madame mayor, please focus on something meaningful to the citizens that voted you in. this is a lot of things, but meaningful to the constituency, it is not.