Home>Local>Atlantic>Atlantic City councilwoman claims racism in blocking of Muslim appointees

Atlantic City Councilwoman LaToya Dunston

Atlantic City councilwoman claims racism in blocking of Muslim appointees

Dunston alleges Oliver office held utilities authority nominees at request of mayor

By Nikita Biryukov, February 19 2020 12:56 pm

A member of the Atlantic City Council is alleging that Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver or her office blocked the appointment of two women to the city’s Municipal Utilities Authority following a request by Mayor Marty Small.

Councilwoman LaToya Dunston sent Oliver, who is commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, a letter seeking a meeting to discuss the appointments of Michelle Kidd and Amena Chowdury to the ACMUA, saying that Atlantic City State Monitor Rob Long halted the appointments after Small warned him the two were ‘not good people.’”

“Sadly enough, through this action and directives, and consistent reminders being provided by Mr. Long, the City Council of Atlantic City  and the State of New Jersey are no longer in a quasi-partnership and we are to believe that we no longer have a vital role in the decisions of the city unless it comes from your office, leaving us in a virtual holding pattern awaiting your next directive,” Dunston said.  “We understand that The Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act limits what we can do independently as an elected body but an action like the one you have executed concerning our sisters and their appointment to the ACMUA requires we stand in opposition and demand a respectable resolve so that their communities can continue to feel the respect and opportunities that have been afforded to us all,” Dunston said in her letter.

Gina Trish, a spokeswoman for Oliver, said the matter was currently under review.

Oliver’s office requested resumes for Chowdury and Kidd last month, a move Dunston claimed was unprecedented.

She suggested the appointees’ religion was a motivator in the delay.

“Never in the history of the controversial state intervention and oversight of our City nor in the history of our municipality has one of City Council’s board appointments, have been subjected to this offensive and humiliating side show by the state’s interference with this process, none the less other appointees to other boards that were also unanimously approved at the same meeting were approved without question and the only obvious difference is that these specific women are both Muslim,” she wrote.

Dunston made clear she wasn’t suggesting Oliver was acting out of prejudice, though she appeared to imply the lieutenant governor could be harmed by that perception.

“We are encouraged to believe that what has transpired was not your intent and see the harm the optics creates and honorably you will stand for what is deserving and due to these Women,” Dunston said. “We know an honorable woman of your caliber wouldn’t allow the perception of religious and gender discrimination to besmirch your reputation. Respectfully we await your response.”

This article was updated with comment from Gina Trish at 4:27 p.m.

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