Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, who was arrested last month for allegedly taking $30,000 in bribes from a federal informant, will be in charge of the next council meeting — if he remains council president.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy has put pressure on Vega to resign from his top post, though nobody expects him to quit his at-large seat altogether.
City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill acknowledged that Healy has met with Vega several times since his arrest, but did not disclose details about their conversations.
“The nature of it is on how to move the city forward governmentally. And that’s really the extent of what we’ll be commenting on,” she said.
The council intended to temporarily remove Vega from the top post by designating Councilman Peter Brennan president pro-tem – a position that the council had already intended to create but took on new urgency once Vega was arrested. Most council members and government officials were under the impression that Brennan would fill in for Vega while he dealt with his defense.
But in a in a memo to council members, Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis wrote that Vega will maintain control of council meetings as long as he attends them, and that he can not simply delegate the responsibility to Brennan.
The council president makes a slightly higher salary than the rest of the council and temporarily takes over the mayor’s duties in the event of a resignation or death.
Neither Vega nor Brennan, who is recovering from prostate cancer-related surgery, attended this month’s council meeting, over which Councilman Bill Gaughan presided. Both plan to attend the next one on September 9. Multiple City Hall sources say that Vega is considering stepping down as council president on or before then.
Councilman Steve Fulop, who requested the opinion that resulted in the Matsikoudis memo, is the only council member who has called on Vega to resign his seat and not just his position as president.
“If you are definitive that you did nothing wrong and you don’t want to resign, then why resign from one position and not the other,” said Fulop. “Maybe Mariano now thinks he did a little something wrong so he will resign a little bit.”
A call to Vega’s cell phone was not returned.