Trenton, NJ councilwoman questioned whether police director is really Black
TRENTON — The capital city's police director says he has been harassed by a vocal councilwoman who even questioned his blackness.
In the lawsuit filed against Councilwoman Robin Vaughn and the city of Trenton, Police Director Steve Wilson claimed his rights under New Jersey's law against discrimination was violated.
From the first time they met, Vaughn has been hostile towards Wilson who was named police director during the summer of 2021, according to the lawsuit. He was confirmed in the fall.
The lawsuit said that upon meeting Wilson for the first time Vaughn stated, “I hope you’re ready because we’re coming after you."
During a City Council meeting, Vaughn made a similar statement and said she would make sure Wilson was fired. In another meeting, she questioned Wilson's race and was upset he replaced a Black woman, Sheilah Coley.
“The police director is not even Black and has done nothing," Vaughn said, according to the lawsuit.
Wilson responded that he is Black. Vaughn replied, “No, you are not.”
Wilson also identifies as an Asian-American.
Didn't share her cell phone number
Vaughn also was upset that Wilson was part of a group text with council members.
“Get that direct [or] off this group immediately!! This is group for duly-elected officials. Since when are the directors allowed to post in this group?? I did not give acting Director Steve Wilson my private cell phone number. He better not ever text me again. The actions of an idiot," Vaughn texted.
Vaughn cited incorrect crime statistics to make her case against Wilson that he is not doing his job, according to the lawsuit.
Vaughn's actions have caused Wilson "emotional distress, anger, embarrassment and humiliation," according to the lawsuit.
Wilson blamed the city for continuing to "employ" Vaughn despite previous racist and homophonic comments. As a councilwoman, however, Vaughn is not a city employee but is elected by voters.
Vaughn and mayor tangle politically
Vaughn was elected to the city council in 2018 to represent the West Ward. She ran for mayor in November and was soundly defeated, finishing in third place with just 689 votes. Incumbent Reed Gusciora was re-elected with nearly 5,800 votes.
Vaughn has butted heads with Mayor Reed Gusciora, who is white and gay. She led an effort for the City Council to take a "no confidence" vote in 2021 on Gusciora. In 2020 she called Gusciora a pedophile during a profanity-filled Zoom call that led to a call from Gov. Phil Murphy for her to resign. The mayor also has blamed her for blocking a vote on a city budget, forcing him to go to the state for cash to keep the city running.
In the lawsuit, Wilson seeks a jury trial and compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, costs of suit, attorneys’ fees, enhanced attorneys’ fees, equitable back pay, equitable front pay and equitable reinstatement.