Four members of the City Council introduced a no-confidence measure in the City Council on Tuesday night to censure mayor Andre Sayegh for his alleged failures over the past two and half years.
Council members Maritza Davila, Michael Jackson, Shahin Khalique, and Alex Mendez introduced the no-confidence measure which states Sayegh “has shown himself to lack the temperament and character to command the respect and confidence necessary for the office.”
Body of the resolution lists a litany of the mayor’s alleged failures:
- Sayegh “failed” to execute on the sewer reforms and his administration gave a “deceptive plan” to the council for sewer billing
- Sayegh “failed” to address homicides that reached a 31-year high in 2020
- “Sayegh has engaged in questionable hiring practices”
- “Sayegh has failed to implement an Economic Development Plan that allows projects to be presented to the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment in a timely manner”
- Sayegh has allowed services to decrease, resulting in dirty streets, unplowed roadways, and inconsistent trash and recycling pick up
- “Sayegh failed provide proper oversight of his Administrative staff leaving the City without cohesive plans or measures to tackle day-to-day concerns within the City”
- Sayegh failed to tackle the growing homelessness problem and “mishandled” Covid-19 testing and vaccination for residents
- And “Sayegh and his administration have failed to properly implement the State Health Benefits plan leading to very costly litigation.”
“It’s very black and white. I think the community sees it; I think we see it. I don’t think this is a personal attack against the mayor. I’m not here today to discuss and attack the mayor; I’m here to talk about the work,” said Davila.
Davila and her three colleagues argued the mayor has failed to deliver for residents.
“There are some gross failures,” said Jackson.
Jackson supported the Sayegh administration during its first year when Vaughn McKoy was serving as business administration, he said. He said Sayegh removed experienced administrators like former police chief Troy Oswald and finance director Marge Cherone.
“Mayor Sayegh has failed. His administration is filled with yes people,” added Mendez.
Sayegh has surrounded himself with sycophants and is failing to deliver for residents, he said. He has hired four cabinet members whose resumes are not on file with human resources, pointed out Mendez.
Mendez said the administration also provided poor oversight over the annual property assessment program. New homeowners, who were hit with large assessment value increases under the program, have been upset with the annual assessments.
“I don’t know how he took the decision or who he listened to,” said Mendez mentioning the abrupt scaling back of the Covid-19 testing program by Sayegh in late December.
Sayegh slammed the sponsors of the no-confidence measure.
“These accusations are coming from people who are facing serious criminal charges from the Attorney General,” said Sayegh on Tuesday night.
Mendez and Jackson have been charged with voter fraud stemming from the May 2020 elections. Both men have denied the charges.
“It’s politically motivated. These are political opponents. It’s clear what they are trying to do: they’re trying to deflect attention from their criminal charges, which are not going to go away. In fact, I’m sure action will be taken soon,” said Sayegh.
Mendez accused Sayegh of campaigning at the vaccination site at International High School.
“The mayor is using city resources to campaign,” said Mendez. He said he is not sure who is doing the job the mayor was elected to do.
Sayegh said Mendez is known for making “baseless accusations.” He said he visits the vaccination site couple of days a week to ensure it’s running smoothly.
Sayegh’s allies argued the symbolic vote does little to address the chronic problems Paterson has been facing for decades.
“I think this is a political circus. Where is this going to take us?” said councilman Luis Velez. He claimed the administration has been trying to work with the City Council on some issues.
Velez expressed frustration during the summer that Sayegh and the police chief were doing little to address large after-hours gathering amid the pandemic. Police later crackdown on some after-hours gatherings.
Velez said issues like homelessness and panhandling are not new and did not develop under Sayegh. He appeared to take a jab at his colleagues prompting council vice president Lilisa Mimms, who was presiding over the meeting in absence of president Flavio Rivera, to say, “You can vote your own conscience.”
Velez said voters can remove the mayor if they are unhappy with his performance in the election next year.
“This item does absolutely nothing for your garbage pick up. This item does absolutely nothing for your snow removal. This item does absolutely nothing to rectify all the issues they stated,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz.
Abdelaziz said the measure only puts a “black eye” on the city.
“This is just going to divide us more and more,” said Abdelaziz.
“We do not need a mark on the city right now,” said councilwoman Ruby Cotton. She said it tells outsiders the City Council and mayor in Paterson “can’t work together.”
“Everything in the resolution is the truth,” said Khalique. He said the mayor can address the failures mentioned in the resolution point by point. “The resolution speaks for itself.”
Khalique suggested Sayegh was responsible for publicizing the voter fraud scandal that engulfed Paterson last year. He claimed Sayegh influenced the voter fraud scandal by giving statements to the news media. He claimed that gave Paterson a black eye.
Khalique claimed Sayegh “put people’s families in jeopardy.” Khalique’s brother Shelim Khalique and one of his campaign workers were charged with voter fraud in the May 2020 election. “He’s the one behind everything. Everybody knows that,” claimed Khalique.
Khalique brushed aside the arguments made by the mayor’s allies.
“Some of the yes-members of the council said what the mayor wanted them to say,” said Khalique.
No one knows whether the no confidence measure will pass next Tuesday.
Sayegh’s predecessors Jeffery Jones and Jose “Joey” Torres were both the subject of no-confidence votes. Jones after the overtime scandal that occurred following hurricane Irene and Torres after he was indicted for corruption. The measure against Jones passed while the one against Torres failed.
The no confidence vote is symbolic and has no practical effect. However, the measure could negatively affect the mayor’s re-election chances and his aspirations for higher office in the future, according to political strategists.
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