The state-appointed overseer of Camden has fired a city department chief who also serves as the mayor's spokesman, creating new questions about the balance of power in the state-run city.
"Sometimes I'm confused what exactly the role of the mayor is," said Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, whose powers were largely stripped in a 2002 state takeover law. She said she had "no say," even in major decisions.
In exchange for $175 million in state grants and loans, the law took almost all power away from elected city officials and created the powerful position of chief operating officer. The second chief operating officer, Theodore Z. Davis, has been using that power to fire city employees.
Last month, over objections from Faison, City Council and the employees' union, Davis cut 26 municipal positions to close a budget deficit.
And on Monday, he fired the Rev. Tony Evans, a seven-year veteran of City Hall who ran the Department of Health and Human Services and often spoke for Faison. His last day will be Thursday.
Faison said she had not been included in the decision-making on Evans' firing or the 26 job cuts even though the takeover law mandates "consultation" with the mayor.
Davis' chief of staff, Brett Waters, said Davis "would like to have his own team and his own ideas."
Faison has said the 26 terminations violated her constitutional rights, but Davis disputed that in an interview last month.
"She sat in the meeting. She was part of the committee - me myself, the business administrator, and someone from the law department," he said. "I guess she wants to run for election."
Faison called Evans' firing "hurtful." A minister at 10th Street Baptist Church, he was involved in faith-based outreach, summer programs for children, and health events.
"I'm a pastor in Camden. People saw me walking around in the cold at the Fugitive Safe Surrender program," Evans said, referring to the November program in which fugitives surrendered at a city church.
Davis "wasn't around. Maybe because I've got more exposure and I'm more visible than what he's doing."
Evans said Davis initially had asked him to resign. Davis also threatened to file an ethics complaint against him because of an unsubstantiated pay-to-play allegation, Evans said.
Waters, Davis' chief of staff, did not return a call yesterday to address that account.
Evans said that Davis, a former state judge, was doing a "great job," but that by ignoring the mayor's wishes "he's doing things against the law."
"It ain't like I'm stealing," Evans said. "It's got to be either personal or it's got to be some other outside reason, because it's not condoned by the mayor, and the City Council had nothing to do with it."
Council President Angel Fuentes said that the firing shocked him, and that he believed people would go to the Council meeting Tuesday to discuss it.
"Maybe the judge knows something that we don't know," he said.