Corruption, according to Merriam-Webster Online, is defined as an impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle. It is part of the human condition that we have yet to escape, as is the case of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack. Last Monday, federal agents arrested Mack. The arrest was based off bribery charges that pertained to a parking garage project that Mack and his brother Ralphiel, along with convicted sex offender and local business owner Joseph Giorgianni, were working on together.
Mack had allegedly agreed to use his influence and is accused of conspiring to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by extortion under color of official right. The garage itself was fictional—a ruse by investigators to trap Mack. The men were given over a hundred thousand dollars from the investigators and a cooperating witness who was a supposed investor.
Giorgianni went to prison in the 1980s on charges of abusing a 14-year-old girl in the back of his sandwich shop. The case gained notoriety because of weight-related health problems that got Giorgianni, a steakhouse owner who once claimed to tip the scale at over 500 pounds, released and led a prosecutor to charge he “ate his way out of jail.”
The Trentonian reported that “during an FBI raid of Ralphiel Mack’s home the morning of July 18, $2,500 in $100 bills were recovered by agents which bore the same serial numbers as bills that Giorgianni accepted for a corrupt cash payment.”
According to Mack’s lawyer John Hartmann, the money was actually a loan for his brother and not a bribe payment meant for the mayor. Giorgianni has also stated “I like to make money for my friends.”
I am not sure how one would classify this story of corruption; it is obvious that Mack and company are guilty. I wouldn’t call Mack an evil man but I would call him a weak man. I say this because he was a trusted government official who allowed his own downfall to be constructed from his greatest flaw—his greed. Am I appalled by this man’s actions? Yes. Am I surprised at his actions? No, but that is because there will always be corrupt officials in politics.
I do have empathy for the citizens of Trenton because they deserve better. A swindler lead them in these times of recession. When investigators confronted Mr. Giorgianni after the raids in July, he defended the mayor as “basically an honest man.” Mr. Mack was looking to do good things for Trenton, and if he received small payments along the way, Mr. Giorgianni said, that was “good corruption.”
Good corruption. There’s a real dichotomy to that statement.
I can understand the urge to want more—we’re all human. I know it’s the nativity in my character but I would like to believe that there is still honor in having a role in the government. Mack didn’t seem to have that same honor; the man is now a criminal associated with a sexual predator.
I know it isn’t as exciting as a Martin Scorsese film to many, but this story is important because it tells of a man who just wanted more and didn’t care about his position. He took his responsibilities and threw them away. Maybe he would say that I couldn’t judge him until I am in his position, but then again maybe I am wrong.