ATLANTIC CITY — Residents led by the president of the city’s police officers’ union are organizing an effort to recall Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
Local PBA President David Davidson Jr. confirmed that he is gathering supporters to remove the mayor in response to his approach to the city’s public safety sector, which has included several proposed cuts amid a financial crisis.
“We’re on the path to destruction,” Davidson said Monday. “And it all leads us back to us talking about a recall.”
Davidson has grown increasingly hostile toward the administration as details have surfaced about Langford’s budget plan, which includes the layoffs of 20 police officers and the demotion of 15 police supervisors.
Langford’s spokesman, Kevin Hall, called the recall effort “ridiculous” and said it was an attack on the mayor’s “razor beam sight on trimming this budget.”
“Clearly, the mayor is not worried in the least about any efforts to recall him,” Hall said. “He has no apprehensions at all.”
Davidson’s confirmation of the plan to recall Langford came after rumors circulated of secret meetings scheduled to organize the effort. David Tayoun, a former city police officer who ran against Langford in June’s Democratic primary for mayor, ran one of those meetings Monday night.
“I told him I would put my effort and my team behind the effort,” Tayoun said of previous discussions with Davidson. “I truly believe that the people in Atlantic City did not vote for this.”
Davidson said the recall would be done through a political action committee, not through his union.
A recall election would be triggered if 25 percent of registered city voters, as of the general election, sign a recall petition.
The last resort mayor to be recalled from office was Michael J. Matthews, who faced indictment in 1983 and later a prison term on corruption charges. The city also witnessed a legitimate effort in 2007 when a group, consisting of mostly Langford supporters, sought to unseat then-Mayor Bob Levy over his admission to lying about his touted military background; his ties to incarcerated, former City Council President Craig Callaway; and their belief that Levy did little work. However, Levy resigned before the recall went to a vote. Former Councilmen Gibb Jones and Robert L. Johnson have also been the target of recall efforts.
Hall discounted the effort against the mayor, claiming New Jersey law requires at least one year of mayoral service before a recall can be attempted, which would occur in November.
Davidson acknowledged the restriction and said he would abide by it.
“With a recall, that’s why you want to move slow,” he said. “Right now, we’re finding out legally what it would take to go through this process.”
Tayoun claimed the effort also has the support of other city government unions and could also get backing from building trades unions both in the city and out of town. However, Davidson declined to discuss any other commitments.
While Davidson’s union carries hundreds of members, only about 100 officers live in the city. Tayoun, who often touts a consistent following of Asian residents, garnered less than 1,000 votes in the June primary. Langford received more than 2,500 votes at the polls.
Davidson’s union also has sidelined itself politically in recent years. Although Davidson worked from Tayoun’s campaign, the PBA chose not to endorse any candidate in the last mayoral election.
Tayoun’s involvement also could create the appearance that the recall is simply another mayoral bid for him. He dismissed questions about whether he had a personal motivation to remove Langford, but also said he still aspires to hold the city’s top office.
“I don’t want to be mayor,” Tayoun said. “It’s something I have to be.”
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