Former Assemblyman Angel Fuentes, who served for 16 years on Camden's City Council, is returning to his old job.
Council voted Tuesday night to return Fuentes to the board to fill the vacancy left by Arthur Barclay, who resigned at the end of last year after he was elected to a Fifth District Assembly seat. Fuentes served in the assembly, representing the Fifth District, from 2010 until last summer.
The unanimous vote was met with outcry from a handful of residents in attendance, some of whom questioned why Council would appoint Fuentes.
"We've got so many new leaders in the city," Eulisis Delgado, a city activist, told Council. "Bring somebody else in here - some young person."
Others said the selection process was flawed. Fuentes, along with Mayor Dana L. Redd, cochairs the city Democratic committee, which submitted his name for Council to consider, along with two others.
In the days after those suggestions were made, reports spread that Redd's chief of staff, Novella Hinson, personally discouraged the other candidates from pursuing the nomination. Redd declined to comment last week on the accusation against Hinson, a fixture in Camden politics. The mayor was not present when Council took the vote on Fuentes.
On Tuesday, Council President Frank Moran said members interviewed Fuentes and candidate Karen Merricks over the last week. Sheila Davis, a well-known community activist, did not show up for her interview, Moran said.
Ali Sloan El, a former councilman who is a regular at city meetings, lauded Fuentes but lashed out at Hinson for her alleged interferences.
"These other two were good people," he said. "They were thrown under the bus by Mrs. Hinson. Is she the mayor? Or is the mayor the mayor?"
Angel Cordero, a prominent East Camden activist, was also critical of Hinson.
"The problem is Mrs. Hinson," he said. "I love Angel, but there are other qualified candidates in the city of Camden that she could have picked. But she directs all traffic."
Fuentes' appointment is temporary. If he chooses to remain on the board, he must run in a primary in June, then in an election this year to fulfill the remaining year of Barclay's term, which runs through the end of 2017.
Fuentes was on Council from 1994 until 2010, serving as president for the last decade. He resigned from the Assembly in June to take a job with the Camden County Clerk's Office, for which he is paid a $125,000 annual salary. He will earn an additional annual salary of about $21,000 when he rejoins Council.