The capital of New Jersey, the third-wealthiest U.S. state, may run out of toilet paper in city buildings because Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and the council are sparring over a purchasing contract.
Trenton, midway between Philadelphia and New York, has money set aside to buy the bathroom tissue, yet the council won’t sign off on the purchase, said Lauren Ira, a spokeswoman for the mayor. City Hall has enough toilet paper to last until March 16, though supplies at other buildings may run out by early next week, Mack said in a statement.
George Muschal, a retired city police officer who represents the city’s South Ward, said the council has refused to sign off on a $42,573 resolution to order paper products, including toilet tissue, cups and towels. The dispute erupted in November when the council balked at Mack’s decision to include $4,000 in paper cups in the order, he said.
“We’re the checks and balances over the administration, and we’re not going to send out any blank checks,” Muschal said in an interview.
The bill for paper cups is too high and Mack hasn’t provided enough information, Muschal said. The council is also concerned that the mayor didn’t solicit bids from Trenton-based suppliers, he said. Muschal also cited what he said were reports that the mayor’s paper order is unnecessarily large because employees may be stealing the products for home use.
The standoff is reminiscent of a 2010 warning by Newark Mayor Cory Booker in which he said he might be forced to cut “everything from printer paper to toilet paper” as the community faced a $150 million budget gap. Marcal Manufacturing Inc., a 60-year-old maker of toilet tissue based 13 miles (21 kilometers) away in Elmwood Park, offered to park a tractor-trailer with 50,000 rolls valued at $35,000 outside City Hall.
Booker never cut funding for toilet paper, said his spokeswoman, Esmeralda Cameron.
Trenton has yet to adopt the $182.6 million budget that Mack proposed in November for the fiscal year starting July 1. More than 100 police officers, a third of its force, were fired in September amid a cash-crunch. The city is down 143 workers from two years ago, according to Mack’s administration.
“The administration took all necessary measures in a timely fashion to ensure that all city-owned buildings had adequate supplies of paper products,” Mack said in the statement. “Members of City Council took it upon themselves to micromanage this resolution.”
Mack took office in July 2010. He succeeded Doug Palmer, who ran the city for 20 years.
Trenton has had at least six business administrators since Mack took over. Two whistle-blower lawsuits have been filed against the city, one from a parks employee who was fired for questioning Mack’s bidding procedures and hiring decisions.
The other was from two former water-utility workers who said they were suspended after providing evidence against Mack’s half-brother, a fellow employee who was charged with theft and official misconduct after allegedly using city equipment on private plumbing jobs.
Questions about Mack’s hiring practices led citizens to organize a campaign to recall him. That effort failed after the group fell short of the signatures needed by Nov. 14 to force a special mayoral election.
New Jersey has per-capita income of $51,167 in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Only Connecticut and Massachusetts were higher in the ranking.