It went down at Newark City Hall last night after Mayor Corey Booker executed an under-handed move to get his preferred choice for a city council vacancy voted into office.
Booker lobbied to get Shanique Speight voted onto the council to fill the vacancy left by current U.S. Rep Donald Payne Jr. In a rare and seemingly underhanded, but technically legal move, the mayor became the deciding vote that awarded Speight the vacant seat.
“In the absence of a quorum, I have an obligation to sit in,” Booker told the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
That scenario didn’t sit well with residents and the supporters of other candidates vying for the vacancy — spurring some of them to rush the dais to prevent Speight from being voted in. The commotion was so intense that Speight had to be sworn into office later that night by the city clerk.
Police were forced to restrain the crowd. One officer discharged pepper spray, perhaps unnecessarily, to hold the crowd back, the Ledger says.
Modia Butler, Booker’s chief-of-staff, was the mastermind behind the plan — a plan that helped block the son of Booker’s long-time political rival, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, from securing the seat, according to the Ledger.
“We did our research. We abided by the rules and guidelines. We didn’t run afoul of anything,” Butler told the Ledger.
Perhaps this situation could’ve been avoided if Booker employed the same-level of honor and decency with this vote as he did arguing for the importance of food-stamps on Twitter. But apparently, Booker’s administration is comfortable with this “legal” subversion of the democratic process.
Others weren’t quite so comfortable.
“This truly was an out-of-body experience,” Councilman Darrin Sharif, who was one of three council members who left the dais in protest of Speight’s appointment, told the Ledger. “The mayor, who goes all around the country to talk about democracy … literally in the back of the room, hiding in the shadows.”
Check out footage of the chaotic meeting below: