JERSEY CITY — Four days after his perp walk was splashed across newsprint and tri-state area television screens, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega showed up to this morning’s City Council caucus meeting and took his place at the head of the table.
Vega started the meeting with a statement.
‘The events of this past Thursday were as shocking to me as they were to everyone else,” he said. “I am not guilty of the allegations. In our system of justice we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I do not intend to resign as council president, nor as a councilman."
Vega said the council is developing an ordinance – to be voted on at its meeting on Wednesday – to create of president pro-temp. Whoever gets that title will take over Vega’s role while he deals with his criminal case. He also relinquished his chairmanship of the Tax Enhancement Committee.
“Public service is the profession I have chosen, and I am proud of my service ot he people of my beloved Jersey City. I am thankful that I have the support of my wife, children and most importantly, I have the support of the facts. I look forward to putting this all behind us as quickly as possible," he said.
Councilman Steven Fulop – the one council member who is not aligned with Mayor Healy – is introducing a resolution of no confidence in Vega, which calls on him to resign. He also wants to open the Tax Enhancement Committee’s meetings to be open to the public.
Fulop issued a statement just minutes prior to the scheduled start of today’s meeting demanding that Mayor Jerramiah Healy also call on Vega to resign, and essentially tying Healy in to the corruption scandal that has struck at the heart of Jersey City politics.
“While Mayor Healy, who has acknowledged being JC Official #4, has not been arrested to date, his refusal to comment on whether Councilman Vega should resign, and his continued support for Deputy Mayor Beldini, shows a complete lack of leadership. At the very least, his silence on the issue is seen by many as a tacit acceptance of ongoing corruption in Jersey City. Mayor Healy has no problem suspending seven low level city employees, but seems to have no opinion about Councilman Vega or Deputy Mayor Beldini,’ he said.
At the start of the meeting, Fulop recounted a list of proposed ethics reforms he introduced that were rejected 8-1 by the council members.
‘The list goes on, and the comments you made at each of those meetings was that I was not a team player, which today I look at as a compliment,” he said.
Municipal Clerk Robert Byrne and most other council members rebuffed Fulop's attempt to move Wednesday's council meeting from 10am to 6pm, which would allow more residents to attend. Byrne cited difficulty publishing notice of the time change, while council members said they did not see a need to change it. Only Ward C Councilwoman Nidia Lopez said she would be open to attending the meeting at night.