His father spoke first, and then a dozen friends and colleagues followed Tuesday in protest of the firing of PCTV producer Lamar Mackson for what many called political motives on the part of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.
The outcry took up an hour of public comment at the City Council agenda-fixing meeting and left Council President Bridget Rivers vowing to bring Mackson back, even if the council had to hire him as a consultant.
Richard Stewart (standing, center) addresses the council.
Richard Stewart, chairman of the 2014 Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, offered a timeline that included taking the public information officer's salary out of the budget, Mapp's controversial YouTube video charging obstruction of his new administration, a special council meeting to express disapproval of the video, Mapp's move to cut funding for taping all but regular council meetings, the June 3 primary where a Mapp-backed slate got only two of three seats and, Stewart said, "The next day Lamar Mackson was fired."
Mapp was not present Tuesday, but City Administrator Rick Smiley defended the action, saying, "While it was hurtful, it was a necessary thing.
"We also no longer have a PIO," Smiley said, referring to the council cut.
Rivers countered that the balance of funding for the Media Division had remained the same.
"The money's there," she said, calling Mackson's firing "a travesty."
Councilwoman Gloria Taylor called for an investigation, labeling the firing "a dirty blow on the backs of our children," but Councilman Cory Storch reminded the council of the separation of powers between the administrative and legislative branches and suggested his colleagues "take a deep breath and think this through."
But Rivers said he was "totally incorrect."
"We specifically took out the amount of money added for the public information officer," Rivers said. "That money for Lamar Mackson still sits in the budget."
Rivers called for a recess "behind closed doors," adding, "We need to work this out."
But Smiley said, "That's not the way we are doing business tonight," adding the firing was clearly "the prerogative of the administration."
Mackson formerly headed the Plainfield Cable Television Advisory Board, but became more and more involved with the production side, leading to his hiring in May 2013 as an employee in the Media Division. Many speakers praised his innovations for the two local channels, PCTV Comcast 96/Verizon 34. He was singled out for involving young people as interns and establishing a YouTube channel to put forth a positive image of the city.
Mackson's father, Lamar Mackson Sr., voiced anger at the firing, saying his son did not get proper notice and declaring, "He's been doing the job admirably."
Allison McWilliams a daughter of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, said she was always amazed at the amount of "bickering and backstabbing" in Plainfield since she was a child. But she said Mackson gives young people "a reason to come back."
Lesli Price called Mackson the "glue" for Plainfield and said he put children "back in the forefront."
Lyle Hickman compared Mackson to a prophet not respected in his own land and said, "I like PCTV. It's fun. It's exciting. It captivates people."