The beauty of democracy, of course, lies in the power of the people to choose who leads them. Yet when politicians are elected who later fail to carry out their promised plans or are otherwise determined to be unfit to govern, then citizens are sure to speak up and demand action be taken against such an official.
Such has occurred in the township of Orange, New Jersey in Essex County where Democratic Mayor Dwayne D. Warren was elected in 2012. However, since then, many residents in the city have reported being ‘fed up’ with the mayor and the serious allegations that he is being accused of. In exercising their voices, concerned citizens have since organized a petition to have the mayor removed from office. Yet because Warren was originally elected by the residents of Orange, those in his defense are claiming that the attempt is an act of ‘political theatre.’
Yet the petition is not based in crazed Russia or racism conspiracies like a familiar White House impeachment attempt. Rather, it surrounds the continued “crime, controversy, and an FBI probe” regarding Mayor Warren and the city.
According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, “Orange had four homicides in the first six months of 2018 compared with none in the first six months of 2017.”
Warren’s critics also cite his apparent inability to properly run the city’s finances, leading to multiple probes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The use of city funds, which has been said to “read like a laundry list of how not to handle taxpayer money,” led to “hundreds of audit comments outlining bad financial practices, sloppy bookkeeping, and a lack of oversight over its spending.”
Among such violations have pertained to citizens being wrongfully taxed and funding being unaccounted for.
While the FBI investigations had many residents demanding ‘what took so long?’ when Orange City Hall was investigated on January 11, 2017, Warren reportedly said that he considered the township to be in “good financial condition.”
Aside from being irresponsible with city funding, Warren also reportedly hired “top administrators” unlawfully and without putting them “on the books.” In one case, a deputy business administrator, Willis Edwards III, was required to “pay the city back his salary.”
Given these and other alleged scandals, local residents have joined in proposing a petition to have the mayor removed from office.
Tyrone Jon Tarver is “leading the recall efforts,” and while Warren is a democrat, Tarver has indicated that the petition is not affiliated with any political party but is rather a general consensus that the mayor has failed to uphold his pledge to make decisions which benefit the residents of Orange.
While the overall condition of the township can be blamed on a number of officials, including those no longer in office, Tarver said of Warren, “It’s really his choice on how he runs the city, how he mishandles and misappropriates the finances of the city.”
He further explained that inappropriate handling of funds could lead to “potential layoffs,” having a detrimental effect on countless residents.
On Tuesday, city clerk Joyce Lanier confirmed the associated petition’s legitimacy, providing that for it to move ahead as a motion, the recall committee is required to obtain an estimated 4,051 signatures which represent “25 percent of all voters registered for the last election.”
The effort must be completed within 160 days of being proposed, and if the committee is successful in doing so, Mayor Warren must resign within five days or “challenge the validity of the certification in court.”
While the conditions have seemingly affected the citizens of Orange to such a level that it became necessary to start a formal petition, Warren’s administration is calling for the local community to support the mayor in finding solutions to the alleged problems.
However, considering that the FBI has been previously involved, it is safe to say that Orange residents have reason to be concerned and demand more competent leadership.
A spokesman on behalf of Warren, Keith Royster, said of the people supporting the petition, “Those few individuals who want to engage in political theatre choose to ignore the will of the people who voted in the 2016 municipal election” where Warren was re-elected.
While voters may have elected Warren twice, that does not dismiss the possibility that changes occurred from the time of either election until now, such as Orange citizens’ recent declining trust in the mayor following FBI investigations.
Considering the seriousness of the circumstances, there may be more behind the politics which residents claim are destroying the community.
Whether or not it is determined necessary to address said allegations lies in voters’ hands in their decision to support or oppose the petition.
While it is admittedly not surprising to see a democratic politician caught in the midst of a scandal, it is refreshing to see the people of Orange taking action. If they are successful in removing the mayor from office, then the ‘political theatre’ will prove to have been necessary. If not, then the voters will have had the opportunity to speak up, demonstrating democracy in action.