Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Council settles on independent counsel for WBLS check probe


Plainfield resident Roland Muhammad, using language that was remarkably evocative of the slur-filled 'Scarlet Letter' flyer circulated throughout City Hall last week, hammered away at Council President Annie McWilliams Monday evening over investigating the manner in which Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs paid for WBLS to broadcast a town hall meeting last August.

Asking repeatedly 'why it is so important to investigate [this matter]" and calling the investigation 'a waste of money and time', it seemed that Muhammad understood it to be an investigation of the radio broadcast.

Council President McWilliams took great pains to say that the radio broadcast was not at issue and that the Council unanimously supported the effort to bring an end to youth violence in the community and to reach out to the city's young people as the Mayor hoped the town hall would do.

McWilliams calmly and patiently explained that the questions have arisen over the PROCESS by which the decision and the payment were made and that the Council has an obligation to the taxpayers to ensure that proper procedures were followed and, if they were not, to determine what further actions are necessary to avoid a repeat in the future.

Councilor Reid, acknowledging that there were votes enough on the Council to pass the proposal to hire an independent counsel, nevertheless thundered that the discussion should have taken place 'in front of the taxpayers' and not in executive session, as had happened -- continuing on to reveal several details from those executive session discussions.

(I must admit I was non-plussed by Reid's tack, since it seems to me the matter belonged in executive session until such time as a hiring decision was to be made -- which, of course, last night was.)

There was a little confusion caused by the fact that Council President McWilliams allowed the discussion among the Council to be held during the PUBLIC COMMENT section of the meeting, rather than during their normal deliberative procedure when the measure came up for its vote. Eventually, the resolution (R120-11) came up and, after further discussion, it was passed 4-2. Councilors McWilliams, Map, Storch and Williams for; Councilors Reid and Greaves in the negative. Councilor Rivers had previously advised Council President McWilliams she would not be present at Monday's meeting.

The resolution names Ramon Rivera, a partner with Scarinci Hollenbeck (see his profile here) as independent counsel at $125/hour for up to $5,000 to do factfinding.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs pounced on the opportunity to portray the matter as an investigation of $5,791, instead of the full amount which she contends was reduced by the $15,000 check characterized at one point as 'reimbursement' and at another as 'a contribution'.

There are a host of questions that swirl around how and when the check was cut, the timeline for all this, what the 'donor' thought they were doing, and many other items.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs refused, when asked directly by Councilor Williams, to divulge the identity of the 'donor', saying it would come out as part of the investigation.

But Councilor Reid has already thrown out the suggestion that Mayor Robinson-Briggs may not cooperate when the Council gets down to the nitty-gritty.

That would be a dangerous tack for Her Honor to take.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rob said...

after having read our Illustrious Jerry Green's blog moments before. ( he is now bringing blog comments forth to a prosecutor ?? Me thinks Mother Russia has found a new home here in the Kingdom of Jerry )

The Mayor could end it all, explain it and say --- There, make your own decision. OR she could do what she is doing now which is sitting in the corner and pouting like a spoiled child. She got caught either doing something VERY shady or very stupid.
She brought this investigation of "$20,000" to her own doorstep, not the City Council of Plainfield.
We should have a pool to see what day she holds the press conference, alligator tears flowing, explaining how she is the victim. "All I have done I have done for you!".
Drag queens on stage couldn't provide this much entertainment. Although their makeup would probably be better.

Anonymous said...

Are we really going through this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:16 PM - Investigating the possibly illegal use of $20,000 of taxpayer's money is not nonsense. Anyone who now tries to play this down as a waste of time or nonsense has no understanding of living in an open democratic society in which people are held accountable for their actions.

Bob said...

We need to go through this "nonsense", because we have a mayor who has done many shady deals and is not at all transparent, as the voters and taxpayers require of her. Anyone who thinks this is "nonsense" probably is working for the mayor, a close friend of the mayor, or they mayor, herself. Let's get real, Shady Sharon has not done the best job for which we are paying her. Give anyone else the job and they will work very hard for that kind of money.

Keeping it Real said...

Anon: 1:16PM - - Going through this nonsense will hopefully avoid future nonsense.

The problem in this City is that everyone prefers to sweep things under the rug and move forward. People need to be held accountable for their actions, otherwise those with bad intentions and self-serving agendas will never cease their fraudulent and criminal behavior!

This is not about a witch hunt. The Council is doing their due diligence in this matter and hopefully no wrong-doing will be found, for all our sakes; restoring some level of confidence in this administration.

In the end, it's not a waste of tax payer funds. It's a great way of demonstrating to those wannabe self-serving officials that we will not tolerate behavior that is unbecoming of a public official.

The Mayor has refused to answer who made the "donation". The Mayor and her administration are consistently enigmatic, with many questions always looming over her and her administration.

I thought it very telling of Mr. Reid's comment on Monday night when he made an indirect attempt to blame Bibi Taylor for having approved the payout for the event.

Let's get the vote out this year and start getting rid of these ineffective and incompetent clowns who keep stealing from the community and covering up for each other.