Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

City Halts Vote over Housing Aid Loss

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

City Halts Vote over Housing Aid Loss

Article excerpt

PATERSON - The City Council was taking a critical no-confidence vote aimed at the city's redevelopment department when the action abruptly stopped -- a few minutes after midnight.

Council President Anthony Davis halted the action after asking the city attorney whether the council could vote on a resolution after midnight, since the Tuesday meeting day had ticked away into Wednesday.

Dawn Blakely-Harper, the lawyer, said all meeting business had to be done before midnight on the designated meeting day in her reading of the state law.

Five of six council members had voted - four in favor of the no- confidence vote, one opposed, with Davis about to vote - when he suddenly halted the process, drawing angry rebukes from Councilmen Kenneth Morris and Rigo Rodriguez, who said the vote should have continued because the discussion had started before midnight.

The unusual turn in meeting protocol involved a serious issue for the city, the loss of millions in federal housing funds by the Department of Community Development, which is headed by Lanisha Makle, an appointee of Mayor Jeffery Jones.

In three years, federal housing authorities have reclaimed more than $3.5 million the city had been awarded in grants but failed to spend within government deadlines. The federal housing and development agency two weeks ago sent Paterson documents showing that $5.3 million more is at risk if the city doesn't spend or allocate it within the next several months.

"Forfeiting funding doesn't create confidence. It does the exact opposite," Councilman Andre Sayegh said during the aborted roll call on the resolution.

Facing a lawsuit, the council on Tuesday night abandoned its plan to take a no-confidence vote on Makle, and - after a 90-minute closed-door meeting with the director, her lawyers and Jones - opted to reword the resolution to express "no confidence" in her department under Jones, excluding any mention of Makle. …

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