The Trenton City Council will consider a vote of no confidence in Mayor Reed Gusciora tonight, possibly urging him to resign, according to the meeting agenda.
The resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Robin Vaughn lists increased gun violence, a whistleblower lawsuit that embarrassed the city and state investigation into his administration’s alleged corrupt procurement practices.
The New Jersey Commission of Investigation recently subpoenaed Gusciora’s administration over the city’s abandoned property abatement program, evoking memories of Tony Mack, who left the Mayor’s Office for five years in federal prison after he accepted bribes in exchange for helping get approvals to develop a parking garage.
The news comes shortly after former housing and economic director Ben Delisle alleged in a blockbuster lawsuit that he was forced out of his position because he refused to fast-track illegal demolition projects that the mayor wanted completed ahead of next year’s election.
Gusciora, an attorney, has responded to allegations of corruption by claiming he’d never do anything to jeopardize his license to practice law and a spokesperson says the city intends to ‘fully cooperate’ with the state probe.
Demolitions recently got underway at more than 20 properties in the city as part of a strategic plan to take down more than 130 blighted building based on public safety concerns, development potential, resident complaints and other factors.
Two teenage girls, Candice Ruff, 19, and Shemiah Davis, 15, died from injuries sustained on Sept. 25, in a shooting on Bellevue Avenue near the North 25 apartments. The girls are Trenton’s 22nd and 23rd deaths from gun violence this year.
Ruff was wounded Sept. 25 on Bellevue Avenue near the North 25 apartments. Another girl, Shemiah Davis, 15, died the night of the shooting.
Vaughn says the three-term mayor should step down because the multiple scandals have undermined public confidence in Gusciora’s ability to govern.
Gusciora has been called a “perennial outsider turned darling of the party establishment” is the first mayor since 2006 to run for reelection in New Jersey’s chronically ailing capital city.
The mayor and the council members are all Democrats but Vaughn has tangled with Gusciora in the past. During a heated exchange in one conference call.
Vaughn apologized but Gusciora never acknowledged that he called her “radioactive” and an “idiot” but numerous figures in the political establishment piled on to call for the head of the independent-minded representative of the city’s West Ward.
Gusciora was the first openly gay state legislator in New Jersey and he is the first openly LGBTQ mayor of New Jersey’s capital city, so when the councilwoman accused him of misconduct related to funnelling money to non-profits groups that do not do anything, his off-color and abusive remarks were overlooked and Vaughn faced broad public condemnation.
“It is imperative that Trenton’s residents have faith in the integrity of their mayor, and that their elected representatives are free from the taint and distractions of defending themselves from untoward conduct in order to be able to effectively represent their constituents and discharge the obligations of their office,” the resolution outlines.
“I consider it a badge of honor coming from a councilwoman who has consistently voted against her constituents’ interest by rejecting the Princetel redevelopment plan and just about every economic development proposal that the administration has put forth,” Gusciora said.
“She even voted against the city’s participation in the Mercer County Homicide Task Force, a critical resource in combating violent crime when we need help the most,” Gusciora said. “I look forward to the councilwoman demonstrating anything she has done in three years except cause dissension and division among the city’s governing bodies.”
Three of seven council members told a newspaper reporter for The Trentonian that they will vote against the resolution, but Councilman Santiago Rodriguez and Council President Kathy McBride are expected to challenge Gusciora in the 2022 mayor’s race, so there’s a fair chance that a majority will adopt it.