Embattled Trenton, NJ, Mayor Tony Mack intends to go through with the reopening of the city’s fourth and final Learning Center, formerly the Trenton Free Public Library (TFPL)’s East Trenton Branch, today.
Mack announced the opening on his personal Facebook page several days before it appeared on the official site, perhaps to quash rumors that he might extend his vacation until an FBI investigation of him is concluded. The opening will mark his first public appearance since news of the investigation broke.
Mack has persisted in making an end run around the TFPL and reopening its closed branches as “buildings with books” on the cheap despite widespread criticism, not only from the New Jersey Library Association, but from members of Trenton’s own city council and administration as well as members of the community, as LJ reported.
The most recent critic is recently retired New Jersey State Librarian Norma Blake. Before her retirement took effect, Blake said that the centers’ new practice of allowing people to take out books after they wrote down their phone numbers and addresses in notebooks, as reported by The Trentonian, is in violation of state law. “They’re not being lent under any kind of inventory control, nor are they lent under any kind of library policies. The resources are under the ownership of the library board of trustees,” she said.
(The notebooks may only be an interim step: Brian White posted a template for a Learning Center Library Card on his own Facebook page. White is a former TFPL employee who said he’d been guaranteed a job in the Learning Centers; his Facebook profile lists him as currently employed as a reference librarian by the City of Trenton.)
The Learning Centers are being run out of the city’s Recreation Department, which Mack’s office assumed direct oversight of in early July. (It was previously managed by the Department of Public Works.) The Recreation department has no director or permanent staff, but is nonetheless over budget, Councilman Zachery Chester was quoted in the Times of Trenton as saying.
The laws governing libraries are not the only ones Mack is suspected of violating; indeed, they may be the least of his worries. He is currently under investigation by the FBI for potential involvement in activities including bribery, fraud, extortion, money laundering, drug distribution, loansharking, and kickbacks, according to the Times of Trenton.
Also named in the investigation are Trenton’s acting Public Works Director Harold Hall, his nephew and Recreation Department employee Charles Hall, acting Housing and Economic Development Director Carmen Melendez, Mack campaign contributors Isam and Nedal Abuhumoud, and campaign contributor and convicted child molester Joseph Giorgianni.
Mercer County Prosecutor Joe Bocchini said his office will continue previously announced investigations into Trenton city government as well.
“I have not violated my duties or the public trust and I have no further comment on this matter,” Mayor Mack said, in what may be one of the shortest press releases ever issued.
|Data-Driven Libraries: Navigating Options & Measuring Outcomes: Librarians today are facing the inescapable reality that data is slowly beginning to govern much of what they do, and they need to determine the most constructive way to deal with this ocean of information that a growing number of software companies and applications are making available. Sign up for this free webcast series to learn innovative data-driven solutions that will help you navigate through the data to create viable plans for your library's future.|