New Atlantic City mayor’s vow: I’ll follow the law

City Council President Marty Small was sworn in a day after fellow Democrat Frank Gilliam Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing $87,000 from a youth basketball club he founded.

Marty Small was sworn in as Atlantic City's new mayor. He is pictured here in a July 28, 2016, file photo. (Wayne Parry/AP Photo)

Marty Small was sworn in as Atlantic City's new mayor. He is pictured here in a July 28, 2016, file photo. (Wayne Parry/AP Photo)

Updated 4:16 p.m.

Marty Small began his tenure as acting mayor of Atlantic City by setting a seemingly low bar for himself, yet one that has tripped up many of his predecessors in the ethically challenged city.

“I’m going to follow the law at all times,” he declared.

Small was speaking at a ceremonial swearing in-ceremony in City Hall a day after his predecessor, Frank Gilliam Jr., admitted stealing $87,000 from a youth basketball team he had founded. Gilliam resigned hours later.

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And so the mayoral merry-go-round spun yet again in this seaside gambling resort whose long, rich history of corruption was chronicled in the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”

Small, 45, said he would not talk about Gilliam other than to ask residents to pray for the former mayor and his family. Gilliam could get 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 7.

Gilliam, 49, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Camden to stealing money that was purportedly for the basketball team and for school supplies for poor children. But prosecutors say he used it on himself — for trips, fancy clothes and other personal expenses.

Gilliam apologized to residents in a letter Thursday afternoon.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as the Mayor of the City of Atlantic City, effective immediately,” Gilliam wrote in a letter filed with the city clerk. “My sincere apologies to each constituent that voted for me and had high hopes in my tenure.”

Yet his lawyer issued a statement trying to lessen the perceived severity of the crime, noting that Gilliam stole private money, not public funds.

Gilliam stepped down shortly after New Jersey’s attorney general filed court papers seeking his ouster under New Jersey’s Forfeiture of Public Office law.

Small has run several times for mayor and lost a primary to Gilliam in 2017.

Small himself has been charged twice — and acquitted twice — of election-related fraud in cases he maintains were politically motivated.

How long he might serve as mayor is uncertain. Because an incumbent mayor resigned in the midst of a term, the law calls for the city Democratic Committee to nominate three candidates to the City Council within 15 days. The council must select a candidate within 30 days to become the next mayor.

That person would serve until the general election in 2020.

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