Councilman Alex Mendez relinquished his claims over a vacant seat on the Paterson Parking Authority board on Tuesday evening in a “gentleman” like gesture handing the seat to councilwoman Maritza Davila.
“Just to put an end to the discussion, councilwoman,” said Mendez, “as a gentleman – ladies are first – you got my word: you take Parking Authority and I’ll take housing.”
The newly elected council at-large members got their first chance to make an appointment to the authority after Juan Jimenez, a board member, passed away. Since both were elected and sworn in during the same day, the council’s seniority based appointment awarding system faltered.
Instead of the seat going to the senior at-large member out of the two, it was up to Mendez and Davila to decide who would end up making the appointment.
Both wanted the volunteer appointment.
Mendez’s concession settles a dispute that began in early January and continued for almost two months. The two at-large council members were simply unable to agree on method to determine how to go about deciding who would get the appointment.
Other council members suggested ways of settling the impasse potentially by a coin toss. “Tossing up a coin, doing a lottery, is not the right way,” said Davila prior to Mendez’s announcement.
Davila wanted the appointment to go to the council person who was sworn in first. Davila was sworn in before Mendez.
She also suggested settling the impasse through alphabetical order based on seating arrangement. Davila’s name comes before Mendez’s in alphabetical order.
“How do you figure tossing up a coin is a better process than actually going with who was sworn in first or in this case a resolution put on the floor with both of us and voting?” asked Davila.
“The reason why a coin is fair is because of probability and the odds,” said Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. “Probability says if you throw a coin anyone has a 50-percent chance that means both you and councilman Mendez have the same probability of receiving the appointment.”
The odds for both in a coin toss is the same: 1 out of 2. Tavarez said both of Davila’s suggestions were unfair, for both put her ahead of Mendez.
“Tossing a coin is really the most fair and just process here,” said Tavarez.
Neither council member agreed to a coin toss. In fact, following the first time the impasse surfaced Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, placed two resolutions on the council’s agenda to vote who gets the appointment. Those resolutions bore the names of Davila and Mendez.
Mendez protested in letter and in speech that his name was used without permission on the resolution. He described Morris’ move as “unethical.”
“I’ve never in my life as an elected official done anything unethical and I never will!” responded Morris. He said the resolution does not obligate or compel a council member to do something he or she does not wish to do.
Mendez also obtained a legal opinion from the city’s law department where a city attorney wrote he thought the request to create a resolution would come with Mendez’s approval.
Morris said creating a resolution for only one person would have been fundamentally unfair. He further said if Mendez had an issue with the resolution he should have pointed it out during the first workshop meeting when it was listed on the agenda.
Mendez, following his concession, recognized that the petty dispute over an appointment was eating up time that could have been used to discuss much more important things like the budget.
“There’s other things on the table that we need to discuss and we need to spend time [on],” said Mendez.