The mayor of New Jersey’s capital city was removed from office by a judge Wednesday, 19 days after a jury found him guilty of corruption as part of a government sting.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, 48, had fought to remain in office until his sentencing in May while also seeking to have his conviction thrown out.
But Judge Mary Jacobson rejected his arguments and signed an order removing him from office. Mack is also ineligible to hold public office in the future and has been stripped of his taxpayer-funded pension. He will be allowed to keep the contributions he made to his retirement plan.
Mack did not speak during or after the hearing and his lawyer, Mark Davis, said it had not been decided whether he would appeal Wednesday’s order.
Within hours after Jacobson signed an order removing Mack, City Council President George Muschal was sworn in as acting mayor. The 66-year-old retired cop will serve out Mack’s term, which ends July 1. He reiterated Wednesday that he does not intend to run in the scheduled mayoral election on May 13.
“You can’t move a city forward when there’s full-blown corruption,” Muschal told reporters at City Hall after he was sworn in at a hastily organized private ceremony in his office.
He vowed to be open with residents and the media and to support whoever is elected in the May election.
Muschal also said he would try to meet with Gov. Chris Christie and get the state’s help for the city, including a request to hire 50 new police officers.
David Ponton, a Trenton resident who once led an effort to recall Mack, greeted Muschal after he was sworn in. He said that Muschal can help restore the city’s reputation.
“When we elected a criminal, the criminals said, ‘They’re not going to send him to jail. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing,’” he said.
Mack was convicted Feb. 7 of bribery, fraud and extortion in a sting operation involving a bogus land development deal. His brother Ralphiel was also convicted of taking bribes in exchange for helping get approvals to develop a downtown parking garage.
Tony Mack’s administration had been under a cloud since he took office in 2010 as Trenton’s first new mayor in 20 years.
Muschal can now void actions taken by Mack in the time after he was convicted. City Clerk Richard Kashmar, who sat in the front row of Wednesday’s court hearing, said Mack only handled routine business and did not sign or veto any ordinances, so there’s nothing that would need to be struck.
Mack joins a string of New Jersey mayors convicted in corruption cases since 2000 that included the leaders of Newark, Camden and Asbury Park.