TRENTON – Caught in a maelstrom of damaging headlines, Trenton Mayor Tony Mack this afternoon tried to stop the bleeding by announcing troubled nominee Carleton Badger’s bailout from consideration as city director of economic development.
“I think the letter speaks for itself,” Mack said after reading from a Badger withdrawal note to the mayor when a reporter asked him if he knew before bringing him aboard that Badger is a convicted felon.
Twice indicted for forgery, Badger pleaded guilt to a 2001 theft charge, according to local newspaper reports. He was serving as acting chief until he submitted his resignation letter today, Mack said.
“I am withdrawing my name…” Badger wrote, according to the mayor, who read the communique from the podium. “I do not wish to be a distraction.”
Mack convened his City Hall press conference in a troubled environment, but “The election season is over,” he told a skeptical press corps awakened by repeated static coming out of the Mack administration, now one month plus in office.
“I am not in the business of slinging mud,” said the mayor. “My mother taught me a long time ago that ‘mud’ spelled backwards spells… well, I’ll let you figure that out.”
Longtime Trentonian city editor Paul Mickle aggressively pursued the mayor on the Badger business and on other reports that surfaced today in front page local headlines about Mack’s home being in foreclosure.
“As it relates to matters of my family, they are just that,” Mack said. “Family matters.”
Mickle pursued Mack on the two subjects before a detective with a gun on his hip appeared and offered to escort Mickle from the second floor mayor’s office. The veteran editor refused to budge, saying he would not be bulied by a “thug.” The incident prompted Trenton Times reporter Meir Rinde to ask the mayor if the public could expect to see a beefed up police response at City Hall anytime Mack encountered “routine disagreements.”
Yesterday, police escorted fired deputy municipal clerk Cordelia Stanton out of City Hall.
“We’re trying to keep you safe,” Mack responded.
Nose-to-nose with the City Hall plain clothesman in sunglasses, Mickle stayed for the entire press conference and persisted – to no avail – in plugging the mayor on the hard questions.
Elected in a June runoff on a wave of anti-establishment sentiment and confronting a $60 million budget shortfall, Mack packaged today’s presser as a happy occasion.
“Today marks 35 days of accomplishments under a distressed time and in a tough economic environment,” he said.
In part Mack blamed the administration of former Mayor Doug Palmer for Trenton’s fiscal wreckage.
“We’re beginning to terminate the irresponsible contractural agreement establishing a courthouse outside the existing building,” prompting a lone hand clap from someone in his administration standing amid frowning reporters.
He also promised a $3.5 revamp of city parks, which he will undertake with the help of federal Community Development Block Grant funding. That would include a new indoor academic and recreation facility. Asked if he intended to follow through on his campaign promise that people who work in Trenton would have to live in Trenton, Mack said, “We are in the process of establishing a project-labor agreemtn that will include Trentonians on local jobs.”