TRENTON – With you in the middle.
Lawmakers said Council President Kathy McBride and Vice President Marge Caldwell-Wilson are “destroying the city” and should resign from leadership of the legislature.
“Their primary objective is to destroy Reed,” said South Ward Councilor George Muschal. “Nothing gets done. People hate them right now. If Marge runs, they will never vote for her. If Kathy runs, they will never vote for her.”
Muschal and East Ward councilor Joe Harrison is tired of watching council leadership allow town clerk Matthew Conlon to recklessly go about the capital.
Conlon, who was hired in August 2020, resigned his post Tuesday after falling out with Muschal over allegations that the clerk sexually harassed three women from his office.
A law firm found the allegations credible, but McBride dismissed Maley Givens’ report as biased and urged the board to take charge of investigating his hiring.
The drama continued to escalate, with Thursday’s meeting being canceled because Conlon informed city officials that he was away on medical grounds.
It came after he claimed to have suffered a kidney stone attack on Tuesday night.
It’s not the first time Conlon has walked out of a meeting while claiming a medical emergency. Both times council members discussed his work performance and signaled a pattern for Muschal.
The retired Trenton police officer doubted Conlon would seek hospital treatment for his apparent kidney stone flare-up.
He learned that hours after he left his post, Conlon sent a lengthy letter to the council leaders.
City officials said Conlon showed up at City Hall on Thursday and caused a riot when he tried to gain access to computers in the clerk’s office.
Conlon did not respond to a call asking for comment on his leave of absence.
There is no timeline for his return, but city officials expect he will be out for at least a month, causing distress for City Hall as Trenton no longer has an assistant clerk to oversee day-to-day operations and oversee future meetings.
Gusciora expected to meet with the city’s State Monitor on Friday to discuss the unsustainable situation.
He’s already asked the Department of Community Affairs, which administered Conlon’s registered town clerk certificate, to intervene, particularly in an election year for the capital.
One of the clerk’s greatest responsibilities is making sure that mayoral and council elections go smoothly.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the council leadership to find a replacement,” Gusciora said. “It’s an embarrassment for the city, for the government in general. The city cannot do without an official. There would be a hell of a lot of executive orders.”
McBride was supposed to suspend Conlon for going AWOL at the meeting, council members said, but for some reason that didn’t happen.
“People are tired of watching this circus show,” said Harrison, who called on McBride and Caldwell-Wilson to step down.
The President and Vice President did not respond to phone calls asking for comment on the vote of no confidence.
McBride and Caldwell-Wilson are unlikely to cede power, especially with the recent addition of Sonya Wilkins giving the McBride faction a super majority capable of overriding Gusciora’s vetoes.
Lawmakers did so after the mayor tried to block an ordinance giving the council power over city redevelopment.
And that stranglehold has also allowed Conlon to wreak havoc in the clerk’s office, despite countless complaints about his performance, council members said.
Local residents complained that he failed to comply with public record requests. City officials also sounded the alarm because Conlon stopped issuing business licenses, which bring the city $500,000 in annual revenue.
This is in addition to Conlon’s other infighting with city officials and the media. He’s suing both to try to extract a $3 million payday over allegations he was avenged as a whistleblower.