Thursday, December 5, 2013
Andrew Duffelmeyer / The Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. — FBI agents staged a middle-of-the-night raid today at the home of Trenton's mayor, whose two-year administration of New Jersey's impoverished capital city has been marked by accusations of nepotism and reckless spending.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack in a July 2011 photo,
Mayor Tony Mack, 46, emerging later in the morning from his home, denied any wrongdoing.
"We have not violated the public trust nor have I violated any of my public duties and that's all I have to say on the matter," he said.
Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, said the FBI was present at Mack's home earlier but said she could not provide any other details.
Mack's administration has been in turmoil from Day 1, staggering from one crisis to another. A housecleaning of staff at City Hall opened the door for Mack's own appointees, who quickly turned it into a revolving door. Some left over questions about their credentials, others to face criminal charges.
Under an agreement reached last year, the Democrat can only hire department heads from a pool of applicants the state offers or he risks losing $6 million in state aid.
A citizens group last year failed to get enough signatures to force a recall election.
In just Mack's first year in office in Trenton, a city of 85,000, he ran through a string of business administrators. The first resigned after a month, saying the mayor didn't believe in "good government." Another resigned just ahead of pleading guilty to embezzlement on another job.
His housing director quit after it was learned he had a theft conviction. His chief of staff was arrested trying to buy heroin. His half-brother, Stanley "Muscles" David, pleaded guilty earlier this year to official misconduct for directing Trenton Water Works crews to perform private side jobs using city equipment and billing the city for the hours.
Questions have also been raised about how he financed his campaign for mayor.
A former longtime city employee sued the mayor late last year. The parks department employee said she was let go after refusing to dole out jobs for the mayor's friends, refusing to give federal grant money to people who didn't apply and for inquiring about city funds she said were missing.
The ex-employee also said she was replaced by a Mack supporter who never showed up for his $40,000-a-year job.
George Dougherty, who represents that employee and two others in wrongful termination lawsuits against the city, expressed relief that authorities have taken action against Mack.
"My reaction today was finally we can all stop saying when will government react to what's been very obvious to us," Dougherty said. "What I don't know is which of the spectrum of things that have been reported finally sparked the action."
Dougherty, who worked as a Trenton city attorney from 1971 to 1990, said Mack has left the government in disarray.
"Maybe what happened this morning will bring an end to that," he said. "Let's hope."
Trenton Councilman George Muschal, a retired police officer who had initially supported Mack but then became a harsh critic, said he didn't know the focus of the investigation but said "when the feds come after you, they come after you for a good reason."
Muschal said city workers regularly come to him with a wide range of complaints but that Mack is many times impossible to reach. "He's the commander-in- chief, he's leading the ship and I don't know where it's going. The man does what he wants," he said.
A year ago, Muschal told The Associated Press that City Hall had become corrupted by the Mack administration.
"It won't stop until someone takes him out in handcuffs or he's removed by recall," Muschal said at the time.
Trenton ranks as one of the nation's poorest state capitals, with about 20 percent of the population living below the poverty line. It also ranks among the country's most dangerous cities.
Mack, who has a master's degree in public policy from Fairleigh Dickinson University, has spent most of his adult life working for municipal government and as an elected county official.
The mayor of neighboring Hamilton Township, New Jersey's largest suburb, pleaded not guilty in federal court last week to charges of extortion and money laundering. Federal prosecutors allege Mayor John Bencivengo took $12,400 from a cooperating witness in exchange for using his influence over a health insurance contract with the township's school district.