The Paterson City Council debated a vote of “no confidence” against Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres Tuesday following a series of I-Team reports showing city workers appearing to do doing private jobs for the mayor.
The vote would be a symbolic gesture, and would not directly affect Torres’s role. Still, it would be a major blow at a time when Torres is already under fire over high taxes and cuts to city services.
City council members could vote on the measure as early as next week.
“We’re not going to sit here and stay quiet and not say anything about this,” said councilman Alex Mendez. “It’s our responsibility as an elected official to take action about this. “
The council was divided over whether it was premature to take a “no confidence” vote in Torres. The state attorney general is still investigating the allegations against him. While some council members said they have lost faith in Torres based on the I-Team’s reports, others said they want to wait for the attorney general to finish its investigation before passing judgment.
“I have no opinion on this either way, and I’m still waiting for those findings to come about,” said councilman Ken Morris Jr.
“I don’t want to be part of something that’s still being investigated,” said Councilman Luis Velez.
The I-Team reports show numerous city workers caught on tape working at the mayor’s home, and at a beer warehouse linked to the mayor’s nephew. On at least eight occasions, time sheets obtained by the I-Team show that the workers were on the clock while working for the mayor. Usually, the sheets say they were getting paid overtime.
The videos were shot by a private eye hired by a developer who had a permit dispute with the city.
“They’re doing the work, and then the time cards match the time they were there. So clearly there’s something wrong, and I can’t approve of that type of behavior.” said councilman Andre Sayegh.
Torres has denied workers had been on the public payroll while working for him. Since March, he has repeatedly declined to answer the I-Team's questions on the matter, and rrecently threw an I-Team producer out of his office when she raised the issue.
Torres did not return requests for comments after Tuesday’s meeting.
Some residents now say a vote of no confidence may not be enough to satisfy them.
“The mayor should step down. The rules are rules, and the rules are for everyone,” said Rafael Fontana.