ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. did not show up at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.
Earlier in the day, his office said he was scheduled to attend. The meeting was council’s first since Gilliam found himself in the cross-hairs of a federal investigation.
Gilliam did not immediately return a call seeking comment after the meeting.
Prompted by a resident during public comment to address the legal issues surrounding Gilliam, Council President Marty Small Sr., who ran against Gilliam in the 2017 mayoral primary, said nobody from council was going to “kick people while they’re down.”
“I have a standard that I don’t comment on people’s legal situations,” he said. “That’s between the mayor, the councilman, their accusers, the FBI and however it plays out. You’re not going to get that from me or anyone on this City Council.”
In Gilliam’s absence, council unanimously overturned a veto by the mayor of an ordinance, introduced in February and passed in October, allowing fire pits on the beach. Gilliam had vetoed the ordinance Nov. 2.
Council also adopted an ordinance creating a Citizens Advisory Board to work directly with the Atlantic City Police Department in an attempt to improve community relations and foster better communication with residents. The formation of the board mirrors a recommendation in the state’s report on transitioning city government back to local control.
The governing body also adopted resolutions to release emergency appropriations for Gardner’s Basin and the Atlantic City Aquarium and enter into an agreement with Shore Aquariums for services at the attraction.
Since taking office in January, Gilliam has attended eight of the 12 monthly council meetings. The mayor does not vote on council agenda items and is not required to attend meetings.
The first-term Democratic mayor has been the focus of intense scrutiny since being involved in an early-morning melee outside a casino nightclub in November, along with Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy II. The Atlantic City Democratic Committee, which supported both candidates in 2017, denounced the two elected officials for their roles in the incident. On Tuesday, Gilliam and Fauntleroy both entered not-guilty pleas in North Wildwood Municipal Court to citizens’ complaints of simple assault and harassment.
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Fauntleroy attended Wednesday’s meeting.
On Dec. 3, the spotlight on Gilliam’s legal issues intensified when nearly a dozen federal agents from the FBI and the IRS’ Criminal Division executed a search warrant on his North Ohio Avenue home. Authorities removed several cardboard boxes and computer equipment from the home.
Gilliam, his office and the U.S. Department of Justice have all avoided answering questions about the scope of the investigation. However, several sources who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation told The Press they had been interviewed by federal authorities about campaign contributions and Gilliam’s nonprofit Connecting the Dots.
Small said he wanted to reassure the public the city has “strong leadership here. We’re not going to be distracted. We’re going to continue to move Atlantic City forward.”