ATLANTIC CITY — New year, same state takeover, even by any other name.
At City Council’s annual reorganization meeting Wednesday, newly reappointed Council President Marty Small Sr. said the state would be assuming full authority under the Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act of 2016.
“The state has exerted their power for full state takeover at this time,” said Small.
Small made the comments after a council discussion about newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Tobo Aboderin and what her roles and responsibilities would be. Aboderin’s four-year term starts on Jan. 21. She replaces Michael Stinson, who served as the city’s CFO since 2010. The state Department of Community Affairs chose not to renew his contract, which expired Dec. 31. The state has unilateral authority over personnel decisions in the city under the takeover law. Small said he was informed by Rob Long, deputy commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, that the state was moving in this direction.
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On Thursday, DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said nothing had changed in terms of the relationship between the state and the city.
“The state has always been in charge under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act,” said Ryan. “The council president was just reminding people that the state is the ultimate decision maker and administrator of day-to-day functions in the city. The state continues to exercise its full MSRA powers, as it has all along.”
Maisha Moore, chief of staff for Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., echoed the state’s statement and said everything in City Hall was “business as usual.”
At-Large Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy II also said the announcement by Small was not reflective of a new relationship between the state and the city.
“Nothing has changed,” he said Thursday. “(The state) is not doing anything more than they were in 2017 and 2018, and they’re not doing anything less.”
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When MSRA was first enacted under the Republican administration of former Gov. Chris Christie, the relationship between the state and the city was strained due to local officials not wanting to give up sovereignty to Trenton. Under Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the Democratic administration employed a more collaborative relationship with city officials.
Fauntleroy said despite the change in how the dynamic is presented, “the partnership (under Murphy) is still the takeover.”
Small said Thursday his understanding of the role the state has in Atlantic City is “cut and dry to the letter of the law. We are under a state takeover under MSRA.”
However, he added the Murphy administration made a commitment to return city government to local control.