The ceremonial nature of the City Council's annual reorganization gained drama Monday with an apology from Clark's mayor for a possible bias incident, and a plea from friends and relatives of a former public defender to restore her job.
The agenda included swearing-in of Rebecca Williams as the council's Citywide at-large member and Charles McRae for the Third Ward. Williams also won the council presidency for 2017 and Councilman Barry Goode is the 2017 chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Both votes were 4-2, with Williams, McRae, Goode and Cory Storch saying "yes" and Diane Toliver and Bridget Williams voting "no." Toliver had nominated Rivers for council president and Rivers had nominated Toliver to chair the Committee of the Whole, but the first votes settled the matter.
Joylette Mills-Ransome was chosen to fill the Second & Third Wards vacancy created when Williams, the former representative, won the Citywide at-large seat. Again, Toliver and Rivers voted "no."
It was after those formalities that Mayor Adrian Mapp introduced Clark Mayor Salvatore "Sal" Bonaccorso, who apologized for an incident in which visiting Plainfield High School basketball players found a black figure that appeared to be hanged. Bonaccorso said he did not have details and didn't know whether it was "done with malice," but it will be investigated for bias by the Attorney General's Office and the Union County Prosecutor's Office. The incident has drawn media attention and much comment on Facebook . Most recently, a parent said the figure was part of an art project and was intended to resemble Lebron James.
Friends and relatives of former Public Defender Joy Spriggs implored the council to restore her job, echoing a similar outpouring of emotion that blogger David Rutherford covered in December 2013. In both instances, speakers characterized Mapp as uncaring for Spriggs' situation. The first instance was based on Spriggs' need for insurance because of her husband's serious illness. On Monday, Spriggs, now widowed, alleged Mapp said now that her "crisis" was over, he needed to place someone else in the position. But friends said she now needs the insurance for her children.
Despite the pleas, the council approved the appointment Monday of Douglas Mitchell as chief public defender. Toliver and Rivers voted "no," Goode abstained and Williams, Mills-Ransome, Storch and McRae voted "yes."
The council approved numerous appointments to boards and commissions, in addition to the court appointments.
Mapp said he will deliver his State of the City address at a date and location to be announced. The next council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan.17 in Municipal Court.