Occasionally, a long-term Mayor will forget that he or she is under, not above, the law. Especially when a law was adopted by the initiative of the municipal voter exercising the precious right to
initiate local laws, the act of a Mayor attempting to override the law by fiat is unacceptable. This happened, again in the City of Trenton, during 2008 when the citizens complained that Trenton
Mayor Douglas Palmer was not enforcing the City’s residency law, a law put into being by a citizens’ referendum in 1973.
In this instance, both the trial court agreed with the citizens. In the Spring of 2008, the trial judge ruled that Trenton’s residency law required its civilian police director to be a bona fide resident as a condition of holding his office as Police Director. The court ordered the position to be vacated. The Mayor, claiming to have a “power to waive” the local ordinance requirements, appealed to the Appellate Division. In a published decision entitled Forester v. Palmer, 401 N.J. Super., 286 (App. Div., 2008) the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court, ordering the Director’s position vacant as of September 23, 2008, (less than a year after Katz & Dougherty filed its complaint to start the removal process).