Authorities Eject Pro-Torres Forces from Paterson City Council Chamber Before No Confidence Vote Fails

Partisans decked in “I believe in Torres” shirts showed up at Paterson City Hall tonight to protest the city council’s vote of no-confidence in the leadership of indicted Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and found themselves herded toward the exits.

The no confidence vote ultimately failed by a vote of 2 to 6.

Only Paterson Councilmen Bill McCoy and Andre Sayegh voted in the affirmative for the failed resolution.

Councilwoman Ruby Cotton abstained.

The trouble started when a few dozen people lined up to speak during the public portion of tonight’s city council meeting.  These residents included both those in favor and against Torres.

In the sea of the crowd lined against the chamber wall, was Omar Rodriguez, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and City Hall’s go-to guy to get-things-done.  In the end, the vote went better than expected, as Torres allies counted on the resolution being defeated by 5-4 but instead got 6-2.    

The pro-Torres forces sporting T-shirts found themselves face to face with anti-Torres forces who arrived, cheering on an anti-Torres speaker.

Things got testy between a speaker and a pro-Torres troop, at which point authorities removed the T-shirted Torres-ites.

They gathered outside the chamber and chanted, when state Senator Nellie Pou (D-35) (the city business administrator) appeared, trying to figure out what happened and asking for names.

Cops on the scene said the ejected Torres allies were being unruly, and explained that they smelled alcohol on their breath.

Torres

The council people later fleshed out their arguments.

The lone abstaining councilperson, Cotton described Torres’ indictment as a black cloud over all of them.

“Let the court system play itself out,” she said. “If he has to be removed he will be. I’m doing my best work with the administration to help my ward. At this time I abstain.”

“I don’t believe in this because it does nothing but bring more negativity to Paterson,” said Councilwoman Maritza Davila. “I refuse to be cornered… to be ridiculed on social media, because of the positions I take. I’m not saying he’s innocent or guilty. I’m saying we don’t need more negativity. Especially for our credit rating and investors. I do not believe in voting for a feel good resolution to make a few feel good.”

She voted no.

Councilman Mike Jackson described a fine line between politics and being true to the community.

Jackson

“I don’t want to stand here and play politics,” said the first ward councilman. “That’s stopped our community from moving forward. I’m here to be a responsible legislator. I’m not here to shadowbox. A vote of no confidence carries no weight. It just brings strife and more negativity to our city. The mayor’s actions are what they are. A vote of no confidence won’t force the mayor to remove himself. We need to stand on the authority we have. Not going to finger point. I wasn’t in favor of it when it happened to Jeff Jones [before he was elected] and I’m not in favor of it now. My vote is no.”

Councilman Shahin Khalique called it a feel good resolution prior to voting no.

“I’m not here to make people feel good. I’m here to legislate,” he said.

One of two yes votes, McCoy is also widely thought to be running for mayor.

“I’m a straightforward individual,” he said. “This vote was given as an opportunity for the council to express ourselves. I’m glad the Council had that chance and let you know what they think. I think it’s appropriate for the Council to express itself. And that’s what were doing. My vote is yes.”

At-Large Councilman Alex Mendez is already an announced candidate in the 2018 race for mayor.

“My biggest concern is making sure our residents are getting what they paid for,” he said. “Let the judiciary system take its place. That can’t be our position. There’s a big misunderstanding within community. The resolution doesn’t remove the mayor. Residents need to have a clear understanding of the process. It’s a feel good resolution, will affect our credit, cost us more money. It means nothing. That’s my position and my vote is no.”

Morris

Veteran at-Large Councilman Ken Morris, Jr. also voted in the negative.

I became concerned with the language in the resolution and the need to clarify intent,” Morris said. “I’m not in the habit of making definitive statements when things ‘appear to be’. What is at issue here is the mayor’s ability to carry out the functions of his office. We’re simply saying that this action by any normal standard raises to the level that they can’t carry out the responsibilities. Language and words need to be correct and convey the correct meaning. If that’s our intent, then we should have a resolution that actually says that. Its not that I don’t have confidence in his ability to do the job. The language should be exact. At this time I cant support it.”

Then there was Councilman Andre Sayegh.

Sayegh

“Overtime is being abused,” he said. “We watched summer camps get shut down while overtime was abused. I consistently railed against the abuse. Tonight I’m speaking up for those children who lost summer camp. For those taxpayers who taxes keep going up. I have faith in Paterson. But I don’t have confidence in the Mayor. My vote is yes.”

Councilman Luis Velez vociferously attacked Mendez for voting no while blasting the mayor in the streets.

“You say the mayor is fine in here, and out there you say hes the worst mayor,” Velez said. “That’s called being a hypocrite. I look at the resolution, its 1 page. Yet here is 9 pages of progress Paterson has made. Cuts have been made. When Torres came in 2002, we had nothing. Now, he’s back in office and we’ve made progress. Let the legal system do its job. Anyone using the resolution as an excuse to run for mayor, wait until 2018. My vote is no.”

 

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