ATLANTIC CITY - State officials want Atlantic County government to take over weights-and-measures inspections after an analysis prompted by the recent arrest of controversial Atlantic City Weights & Measures Division Superintendent Mark Hamilton, according to a letter obtained today by The Press of Atlantic City.
Hamilton was charged with marijuana possession because a city police officer found a joint on him during a traffic stop on Route 40 around 3:45 p.m. Oct. 13. At the time, police didn't say why they pulled over the longtime friend and ally of Mayor Lorenzo Langford. But municipal court records show Hamilton was also ticketed for failing to wear a seatbelt and possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
The incident caught the attention of Edward Sasdelli of the state Department of Community Affairs' Division of Local Government Services.
"I realize that an ‘arrest' does not mean he has been convicted of anything," Sasdelli wrote. "However, it prompted me to do some research."
The letter states that Sasdelli, who left his position as Hamilton Township business administrator a year ago, consulted records showing the county "successfully" handled inspections in the city starting in 2006, when former Mayor Bob Levy eliminated Hamilton's job and the entire division, until 2009. At that time, Hamilton was rehired at the behest of Langford, who returned to office in 2008.
Sasdelli, of Newfield, Gloucester County, did not immediately respond to a call today seeking additional details. But his letter also cited an investigation by The Press of Atlantic City published in April 2010 showing inspections became less frequent under Hamilton's control. That report came a month after the city confirmed Hamilton's employment records had been subpoenaed by the state Attorney General's office, which declined comment at the time as per policy in the absence of charges. And three months before that, a State Comptroller's office audit report criticized Hamilton's hiring.
Since Hamilton's recent arrest, the county has performed casino inspections typically handled by the city, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said today.
"We were asked to come in ... and we did," Levinson said. "We're here to augment to the municipalities, and meet our responsibilities, whatever they may be. That's about all I can say about it."
After Hamilton's recent arrest, Langford pledged "most severe disciplinary action" after getting advice from the city's labor attorney. Business Administrator Michael Scott also said at the time that the review process had started.
Neither Scott, Langford, Hamilton or city labor counsel immediately responded today to requests for comment.