Merry Christmas, the mayor has resigned.
Mayor Samson Steinman stepped down suddenly on Sunday, eight months after taking a medical leave, exiting office with a year remaining in his term and barely four months before filing petitions are due for the June primary. The mayor apparently emailed the appropriate city officials to tender his resignation, effective immediately, according to this nj.com report, citing personal issues and previously told nj.com he was diagnosed as bipolar.
UPDATED, Jan. 10: Here’s the official resignation email — sent on Sunday at 3 p.m. — obtained to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request made on Dec. 27.
The timing of the resignation is unclear but it’s not a stretch to consider that announcing it on Christmas Eve likely would draw less attention. Steinman, and several other city officials, did not reply to email messages seeking comment last night.
The timing also is interesting when it comes to appointing his successor. The City Council president typically takes over as interim mayor but also is selected each year at the governing body’s annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 2. This year’s City Council president is 6th Ward Councilman Raymond Giacobbe, Jr. In a message via Facebook, Giacobbe said he wished Steinman well and is prepared to accept the responsibility of running city government.
Steinman is a Democrat — as are all nine City Council members — so the municipal Democratic Committee will present three candidates for the governing body to appoint to fill the remaining 12 months of Steinman’s original term, which runs through 2018. The appointment likely would occur no earlier than the February meeting, unless a special meeting is convened before that.
UPDATED: Chairman Kevin O’Brien said he doesn’t expect the Democratic Municipal Committee to meet until the second week of January or later to provide three nominations for mayor. “I would like to get this process done as quickly as possible in order to provide continuity and clarity in the city’s government,” he said by email this afternoon.
Dec. 30 UPDATE: O’Brien said the Democratic Committee will meet Jan. 10 to select three nominees for mayor.
Jan. 3 UPDATE: The Democratic Committee now will meet on Saturday to determine three nominees for interim mayor. State law requires that the vacancy be filled within 30 days, and the Democratic Committee has 15 days from the time of the resignation to submit three nominees, which would be Jan. 8 – which happens to also be the the regularly scheduled meeting of City Council.
Steinman took a medical leave in the spring shortly after his second car crash in a city vehicle. The first occurred in August 2016 on Central Avenue and the second occurred in March on Kline Place. The city initially denied a public records request for body camera footage of the incidents but eventually released it in July after a court challenge.
Steinman is the second consecutive mayor to resign before the end of his first term. Rick Proctor was elected in November 2010 but resigned in September 2013 after a tumultuous few years, including a contentious relationship with the governing body and city administrator.
Steinman was City Council president, representing the 6th Ward at the time, and become interim mayor before being appointed to serve the remaining 16 months of Proctor’s term. He won election to a full four-year term in 2014. Giacobbe subsequently was appointed to fill Steinman’s 6th Ward seat and later was elected to a full four-year term to the post.
Before winning election in 2014, Steinman replaced the city administrator and revamped the Redevelopment Agency, replacing the redevelopment director and four of the seven commissioners. The former executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Steinman served as 6th Ward City Council member for several terms before being appointed mayor.