Orange resident, ex-city employee, revitalized in anti-Hackett crusade

The Committee to Recall Mims Hackett, Jr., reiterated its call this week for the mayor of Orange to resign rather than force a special election on Sept. 10th, while the mayor’s former executive assistant announced today from Atlanta, Ga., that she intends to proceed to file a civil complaint against Hackett for sexual harassment.

In a release he issued in the wake of the arrest last Thursday of Hackett, who has resigned from his 27th district Assembly seat but appears dug in as mayor, the committee’s spokesman, Bruce Meyer of Orange said, "The recall petition drive… comes to a conclusion today, having been overtaken by current events.

"The arrest of Mayor Hackett in an FBI sting operation last week validates our recall campaign and publicizes the abuses suffered by the taxpayers of Orange more dramatically than our own citizens' initiative could ever hope to do," added Meyer.

He’s not the only one rejuvenated in his fight against the wounded Essex County mayor.

Laverne M. Ballard, Hackett’s former executive assistant, said she had been fired for refusing to participate in what she calls criminal activity in the mayor’s office, and on learning of Hackett’s arrest last week said she feels "vindicated."

Employed by the City of Orange for 23 months, Ballard claims she was fired on July 21, 2006, for her "refusal to submit to sexual advances and participate in Hackett’s actions… such as submitting fraudulent receipts for reimbursements for his Hackett’s attendance of conferences, fundraising and campaigning on city time."

Ballard claimed that Hackett not only sexually propositioned her within the first 60 days of her employment, but demanded her to complete acts that she said she recognized as crimes while employed at the city. When she refused, he advised her, " This is insubordination and grounds for termination," according to Ballard.

She said she had been requested by the city attorney’s office to hold off filing her civil complaint while they mounted an "internal investigation."

She said that eleven days before her firing she requested a meeting with Jewel Thompson-Chin, business administrator, and Marvin T. Braker, City of Orange attorney, who, according to Ballard, explained that Hackett had claimed she was not doing her job. When she advised them of the true reason for his allegations, "They brushed me off and ignored the political corruption and economical crime occurring with the Mayor and many members of City Counsel. This indictment should serve as an awakening."


His colleagues in the legislature use words such as "sweet" and "nice" when describing Hackett. Meyer agrees with the characterization.

"He’s charming," said one of the mayor’s chief critics. "He’s a nice guy. I don’t doubt that Mims Hackett believes he’s an honest public servant.His reasoning is probably something along the lines of, ‘I’ve done so much for the people of Orange that I deserve to be compensated for it.’"

Meyer said not only had Hackett put his wife and two sons on the city payroll. Orange’s buildings supervisor is the mayor’s son-in-law, and a new police department building is falling apart, according to the worried resident. The part time mayor employs a full-time chief of staff.

"It is our hope, and belief, that Mims Hackett, Jr. will soon resign his position as Mayor of Orange," said Meyer. "The criminal justice system of the United States dictates the presumption of innocence. We believe, however, that the actual criminal complaint against Mims Hackett, Jr. leaves little doubt that the mayor has betrayed the public's trust and that he cannot remain in office. The 2007 Committee to Recall Mayor Mims Hackett, Jr., after much deliberation, has decided not to file our completed petitions for a November recall election but will defer to the statutory processes already in place. We consider the removal of Mayor Hackett from office to be only the first step in purging corruption from Orange and restoring ethical, efficient city government."

Meyer said the one person on the council who has effectively stood up to the mayor – Councilman Ed Marable – has shown no interest in running for mayor. Marable, however, has filed to run as an independent candidate for the Assembly in district 27.

"I would be excited to have someone like him as my assemblyman," said Meyer. "He is truly a public servant."

Orange resident, ex-city employee, revitalized in anti-Hackett crusade