Insiders say Gilliam’s resignation will have no impact on economic development in Atlantic City

Businessperson: ‘This is almost standard operating procedure. Local government is something people in Atlantic City have always worked around’

By Tom Bergeron
Atlantic City | Oct 4, 2019 at 4:00 am

Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam resigned Thursday, hours after he pleaded guilty in federal court to defrauding a local youth basketball program.

City Council President Marty Small will be sworn in as the new mayor at noon Friday.

And those doing business in the city said neither action will have much impact on them.

“Doesn’t matter,” said one person.

“Are you surprised?” asked a second.

Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they have to continue to do business in the city. But no one said they were saying anything that everybody doesn’t already know.

“This doesn’t impact anything,” one person said. “This is almost standard operating procedure. Local government is something people in Atlantic City have always worked around.”

The resignation comes at a time when Atlantic City was believed to making a comeback.

The casino industry appears to have right-sized — and then got a huge boost with the allowance of sports betting.

New hotels and market-rate housing complexes opened — along with a public-private project that helped South Jersey Industries move its headquarters to the city and led Stockton University to open a satellite campus.

“All of that is still going on,” one person said. “And the cost structure is in place that you’ll see more investment. But, don’t be confused, most of the investment in the city is done through the state, not the municipality.

“Having a new mayor is not going to impact doing business. And I don’t think it will impact whether people want to go there.”

Gilliam, 49, was born and raised in Atlantic City. The Democrat was elected councilman-at-large in 2008. In 2017, he defeated Republican incumbent Don Guardian to become mayor.

He first ran into legal trouble as mayor in November 2018, when he and Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy were involved in a parking lot scuffle outside the Golden Nugget. All charges in the incident were eventually dropped.

In December 2018, the FBI raided his home, removing computer equipment and boxes.

This raid presumably led to Gilliam being charged with stealing $87,215 from a youth basketball program and using the money to fund a luxurious lifestyle.

Gilliam pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court on Thursday, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced Jan. 7.

He apologized to the residents of the city in his resignation.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as mayor of the city of Atlantic City, effective immediately. I would like to apologize to the residents of the great city of Atlantic City who deserve stability and respect. My sincere apologies to each constituent that voted for me and had high hopes in my tenure.”