September 1, 2017. Frank Baraff, Newark Communications Director, today released a statement by the City's Corporation Counsel, Kenyatta Stewart, disputing an article in today's TapInto Newark . Baraff said that the article's credibility is tainted because it is based on misinformation obtained from the lawyer for a former city employee who is suing the City for millions of dollars and that the lawyer and his client are obviously looking for a big pay day.
The City of Newark has assigned counsel to represent the City and the individuals named in the complaint filed by its former Corporation Counsel Willie Parker. On August 28, 2017, an answer was filed on behalf of the City and the Mayor Ras Baraka. The attorneys representing the parties added standard language, that is customarily used to indemnify the same. It is important to note that said language did not identify any party/co-defendant listed in the complaint. However, the “TAP into Newark” article falsely states that the Mayor is suing his brother Amiri Baraka, Jr. Both Mayor Ras Baraka and the Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr. deny any and all allegations made by Mr. Parker. The City and its outside counsel will work together to defend the complaint.
In January 2016, many months before Mr. Parker's illness, Mayor Ras Baraka informed him that he planned to hire another person to serve in the role of Corporation Counsel for the City of Newark. The Mayor explained that he recognized that Mr. Parker was experiencing difficultly completing his duties as Corporation Counsel. More specifically, the Mayor addressed the fact that Mr. Parker failed to attend council meetings, and failed to supervise the individual attorneys within the law department, which ultimately lead to the city receiving default judgments in significant cases. The Mayor was especially concerned with the rumors that Mr. Parker had inappropriate relationships with members of his staff. As a result, the Mayor indicated that Mr. Parker should begin looking for other employment opportunities within the immediate future. The Mayor asked Mr. Parker to prepare a transition plan for his successor. Mr. Parker indicated that he understood the Mayor’s position and requested that the Mayor write a letter of recommendation on his behalf.
The city is preparing a cease and desist letter that will be sent to the “Tap into Newark” online news publication. The letter demands that they remove their article which is completely false, inflammatory and a complete misrepresentation of what the legal document says. Frank Baraff, the Director of the Department of Communications for the City Newark spoke to Elana Knopp reporter for “TAPInto Newark” to address the fact that she completely blindsided him with her story. Ms. Knopp admitted that she failed to provide any details to him when she called him prior to releasing the story. She also indicated that “she apologized for her failure to investigate the information she received from Mr. Parker’s attorney”.
In February 2017, I was appointed to serve as the Acting Corporation Counsel for the City of Newark. I immediately met with the entire law department to address some of the Mayor’s concerns. I learned that there were a number of issues that required my immediate attention some of which included the mismanagement of cases and the lack of oversight on important legal matters.
In March 2017, Mr. Parker appeared for a City Council meeting, where he began to scream and disrupt said meeting. A number of the attendees expressed their concerns with Mr. Parker’s mental state. Further, they asked that the guards mandate that Mr. Parker adhere to the proper security clearance upon future entry into the building.
I am proud to say that the law department has made significant progress over the past seven months. We have been able to successfully reduce the time that projects are in the law department waiting for approval. In addition, we have had great success on a number of our labor and litigation matters. Finally, our prosecutor’s office is operating at its full capacity.