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Gov. Phil Murphy called for Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam’s resignation following his pleading guilty Thursday.
“The charge to which mayor Gilliam pleaded guilty to today is, in a word, despicable,” Murphy said. “He has squandered the trust and confidence of his community and of this administration to lead that community. He must resign.”
Gilliam admitted to stealing more than $87,000 from a youth basketball league he ran Thursday.
The first-term mayor, now in his second year as head of the troubled city, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for the offense, though the plea agreement will likely cut that time short. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000.
Council President Marty Small is poised to take control over the city if Gilliam resigns or is barred from holding public office.
Small has drawn controversy over the years, including criminal trials involving allegations of voter fraud, drug distribution and arson. Those trials either ended in acquittal or saw the charges against Small dropped. The councilman has never been convicted of a crime.
Murphy declined to say how much confidence he had in Small’s ability to lead Atlantic City.
“I’ve got no comment on Atlantic City other than what I’ve just said,” Murphy said. “The mayor has to resign, and we have to turn the page and allow all of us to focus on the entire community and the enormous progress that’s being made there. We have to keep that curve going in the right direction.”