Three city activists have demanded council members take a no confidence vote against mayor Jose “Joey” Torres for his alleged use of public works employees to handle jobs at his Arlington Avenue home and his nephew’s liquor facility on East 15th Street.
“Why are we not discussing this issue? We need to know what you think. The community needs to know,” said activist Ernest Rucker on Tuesday evening while repeating his call for a no confidence vote on the mayor.
“The time to act is now. It seems this council has not heard the drumbeat of the community,” added activist Brent Nation. “Is there anyone of you sitting there that have confidence in mayor Torres’ administration?”
We need to know as the voting public if you condone his actions, said Nation.
“You have a tough decision because some of you stood next to the mayor when he ran for re-election,” said activist Rafael Fontana. “We have to make the tough decisions sometimes and that’s what we do as men. We’re not children anymore. We’re men. Let’s get this done.”
Rucker said the videos of workers handling jobs at the mayor’s home and his nephew’s business are far worse than anything former mayor Jeffery Jones handled while running the city. Council members passed a no confidence vote on Jones’ administration for improper overtime use during hurricane Irene.
“He didn’t do 10-percent of what this mayor has done,” Rucker said referring to Jones.
“In that instance the council was the investigative authority,” responded Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. He said the nine-person governing body took a no confidence vote on Jones only after it concluded its investigation.
“There’s an independent investigation going on in regards to the recent acts. I’m of the opinion that to do anything prior to the conclusion of that investigation would be irresponsible,” said Morris. He said if charges are filed or those involved indicted then the council is within its rights to issue a no confidence vote on the mayor.
Rucker said he is aware of the investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office which has subpoenaed employees and government records, but he wants to know where the council stands on the issue.
Council president William McKoy, who backed the mayor for re-election in 2014, said the no confidence vote will be discussed after a new council is instituted on July 1st, 2016.
“The matter before us is very grave,” said McKoy. “I think your call for an opinion is fair and reasonable.”
The activists were not only calling for a no confidence vote on the mayor specifically, but his entire administration. “There are other moving parts, other than the mayor, that allowed this fraud to take place,” said Nation.
Public works employees handled tasks for the mayor and billed taxpayers, revealed the investigation conducted by NBC New York. When Torres was asked what public works employees were doing at his home in mid-March he responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Torres later admitted he used the workers, but paid out of his pocket. Public works employees Jeffrey Williams, Jorge Makdissi, Tim Hanlon, and Joseph Mania billed the city for working on the mayor’s projects, according to the NBC investigation based on video captured by a private investigator paid by a developer involved in a permit dispute with the city.
“At the end of the day honesty in word is of most value. The only good resolution, Mr. Mayor is for you to step down, that’s the best you can do,” said Fontana. “The shame is already done.”
Torres has been unresponsive to multiple interview requests from the Paterson Times since the scandal broke almost three months ago.
“All of us here stand for good government. We stand for a process where everyone is treated fairly and that our employees are dedicated to the business they have been hired and paid to do,” said McKoy.”We have a certain ethical standard and responsibility to carry out.”