Opinion: Another Latino Politician Embarrasses His Community

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

[This unusual editorial by Reporte Hispano follows the story that Paterson Mayor Joey Torres will step down after pleading guilty to corruption charges on Sept. 22, and faces up to five years in prison].

Paterson’s Latino mayor José “Joey” Torres’ recent admission of wrongdoing has filled the state’s Hispanic community with shame.

Torres is the second Latino mayor in less than a year to be sent to prison on corruption charges – Passaic’s Mayor Alex Blanco was convicted in November. Corruption is theft perpetrated against the city, against taxpayers, against people whose homes will be taken away if they do not pay.

In both cases, these politicians laughed at their communities, all in spite of the previous history of mayors before them who were incarcerated for the same reasons.

In his first term, Torres replaced Mayor Marty Barnes and witnessed the consequences of corruption, which led Barnes to be jailed in 2002.

For his third [nonconsecutive] term, he replaced Mayor Jeffery Jones, who infamously charged overtime hours during Hurricane Irene, a check he was forced to return.

Torres won his seat in office by promising to develop the city and end corruption!

Another Latino mayor in Passaic County, Sammy Rivera, also ended up behind bars for corruption in 2008.

(…) Mayor Blanco fell into the same trap.

Blanco, who was sentenced to 27 months in prison, was hastily elected to replace Rivera. Still, the podiatrist ended up in prison too, further shaming his community.

One has to wonder what leads them to corruption. The mayor of Paterson already made $187,623 per year, an extremely high amount for the mayor of a poor city plagued with unemployment where some areas are in complete ruins. [Editor’s note: Torres makes $119,000 a year as mayor of Paterson, and also collects a $68,623-a-year pension after retiring as Jackson’s administrator when he was elected as mayor in 2014, according to NorthJersey.com].

Mayor Blanco had a part-time salary of $72,000. In addition, he had the income he received as a full-time physician. Both Torres and Blanco used the city’s vehicles.

Their income allowed them to live comfortably. Is there some type of vice behind this greed, some weakness driving them to try to get more money by any means?

Behind all this, it seems like there is an old mindset imported from our homelands: “He steals but he does good things, too,” or “It doesn’t matter if they steal if they do it well.”

Here is the result of that attitude: You end up in prison.

We hope that these cases serve to make Latino officials look in the mirror, recognize that the public eye and the U.S. justice system are watching their actions, and that corruption does not go unpunished. In the end, when these Latino mayors are convicted, it is the community who suffers the greatest loss.

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