Chants of “No confidence! No confidence!” reverberated in the city council chambers on Tuesday night forcing council members to consider a vote of no confidence on mayor Jose “Joey” Torres for his alleged use of public works employees on city time to handle work at his Arlington Avenue home and his brother’s East 15th Street liquor business.
Council president William McKoy said the council will have a discussion on a possible no confidence vote against the mayor at its next workshop meeting which is scheduled for September 13th, 2016.
He told law director Domenick Stampone to prepare a resolution for a no confidence vote on the embattled mayor for that meeting.
“Let it be clear we’re not squeamish or unwilling to address the issue,” said McKoy at midnight long after the chanting residents left the council chambers. The council president had said back in June a no confidence discussion would occur after the July reorganization of the council.
McKoy said there is a view that the measure is unnecessary considering the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged use of public works employees to handle private projects.
“We’re all upset at what’s been happening and we’re getting no answers,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. She said she expected answers to come from the authorities who have subpoenaed witnesses and documents after the footages of public works employees working at the mayor’s home aired on NBC New York five months ago.
Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman, suggested the council send a letter to the attorney general seeking a status report on the investigation. The council president said authorities are unlikely to respond to an ongoing investigation.
“We were waiting to see what would happen with the attorney general,” said Cotton.
“I think they are simply interested in hearing our perspective,” said McKoy of the residents’ request for a discussion.
Activist Ernest Rucker has repeatedly called for a no confidence vote on the mayor. “You have a mayor that’s very slimy and doing somethings to this city that’s unconscionable,” said Rucker on Tuesday night as he renewed his call for a no confidence vote again. He was joined by dozens of people inside the chambers with signs who chanted for a no confidence vote on the mayor.
The no confidence measure is largely symbolic. The council has taken a no confidence vote on former mayor Jeffery Jones and former council president Julio Tavarez.
Torres at first denied the allegations, but then said he paid the workers out of his own pocket. He is on vacation in the Dominican Republic and could not be reached for comment for this story.