Jersey City Councilman Peter Brennan was elected president pro-tem of the council on Wednesday, but Council President Mariano Vega – who was arrested last week for allegedly taking bribes – will preside over the next meeting.
Brennan was diagnosed with prostate cancer about two months ago, and he heads to the hospital for surgery on August 6. Brennan’s prognosis is good, but he plans to take two or three weeks off to recover from the procedure, meaning that he will miss the council’s August 12 meeting — the only one scheduled for that month.
Vega will then be back in his usual role running the meeting.
But there is some confusion about the role of the president pro-tem, a position that was just created on Wednesday, and which was written before last week’s corruption busts rocked Jersey City.
As long as Vega still attends the meetings, he is still in charge. When Vega is absent – as he may often while deals with his corruption case – the law makes Brennan the acting council president.
But the impression most people at City Hall have is that Brennan will have the authority to run the council’s meetings from now on — with or without Vega in attendance — until the corruption case is resolved.
Brennan himself said that is the way he understands it.
“Mariano said to me that he will be stepping aside and I will be running the meetings,” he said.
Deputy City Clerk Sean Gallagher, however, said that Vega is acting president “unless otherwise designated at the meeting.”
So every time the council meets and Vega is present – if Vega does indeed intend to turn over the reigns to Brennan – he will have give Brennan the go-ahead.
“The only way he does that is if Vega says I am letting my council president pro-tem run the meeting,” said Gallagher.
Confused yet? There’s more.
Councilman Steven Fulop does not agree with Gallagher’s assessment. Fulop, who has called on Vega to resign, said that “the law is clear” in that as long as Vega is present, he has to run the meeting.
“As if it wasn’t bad enough, the [Mayor Jerramiah] Healy and Vega tag team are just making a circus at this point of the system,” he said. “Outside of the obvious problems with corruption in the administration, the other problem is that they cant even seem to get out of their own way. Literally."
Vega could not be reached for comment.