Big-time boxing returns to Atlantic City? Not by a long shot.
When surveillance video of a fight involving Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. and Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy was finally made public last week, it showed a 45-second scuffle with some punches thrown but seldom connecting, one man thrown off balance to the ground and nothing that looked likely to produce significant injury.
Nearly a month ago now the mayor and councilman got into a middle-of-the-night fight with two or three nightclub staffers outside the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Gilliam and Fauntleroy received summonses on counts of simple assault and harassment.
The state Attorney General’s Office transferred the case to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, which investigated and announced last week that it would not pursue any criminal charges related to the fight. The case will go to municipal court next week, in North Wildwood, for a hearing on the complaints by the nightclub employees.
The day before the prosecutor’s announcement of no criminal charges, the Atlantic City Democratic Committee called for Gilliam and Fauntleroy to resign immediately. Barring that, it asked state officials to suspend them without pay until the matter is resolved.
Even though city Democrats had supported the pair in their victorious election campaigns, there was a falling out a few months later, supposedly over a campaign check for the committee that got deposited in Gilliam’s campaign account — mistakenly, he said. The committee filed a criminal complaint over that, but it was dismissed by a Superior Court judge for lack of evidence.
The committee’s resignation call also seemed like an overreach, but New Jersey is managing Atlantic City’s fiscal affairs and has broad powers over it, so perhaps it was more likely in this case.
However, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who has direct oversight of the city as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, made clear that although the allegations against the officials were troubling, the state would wait until the legal process finishes before deciding what, if anything, to do in response. She said that process shouldn’t be compromised by speculation about what might follow.
That’s surely appropriate, even as federal authorities pursue an apparently unrelated investigation of Gilliam.
There’s no question that the behavior of Gilliam and Fauntleroy fell short of what citizens want in their elected officials. Since the fight occurred outside a nightclub, a suspicion that alcohol was involved is warranted.
But typically government officers are removed for criminal actions rather than bad behavior.
If the citizens of Atlantic City feel that whatever punishment Gilliam and Fauntleroy get, besides a lot of bad publicity, is insufficient, they can weigh that factor in the voting booth if they seek re-election.