Dozens laid off from city, budget remains a mystery

Mayor hires and pays, fires with impunity

Everett City Hall July 4, 2020. (Photo By Jim Mahoney)

By JOSH RESNEK

Into the second week of July and the City of Everett still doesn’t have a budget. Not even a draft spending plan for the City Council exists and the council doesn’t meet again until September.

According to city hall sources who speak with the Leader Herald, several things have happened during the past ten days.

About 80 men and women have been laid off by the mayor, including a number of eyebrow raisers.

Many clerics in many departments have been let go.

Several employees with strong ties to the mayor have been let go, as well, proving that knowing him and being close with him doesn’t count for much when he lays you off. Some who haven’t been laid off have had their salaries dramatically reduced, according to sources.

The mayor’s chief of staff Kevin O’Donnell has had his salary cut by $50,000 a year, still leaving him $30,000 a year in addition to his state pension.

The Director of Inspectional Services Jim Sopa is said to be leaving rather than be dealt with miserably by the mayor, according to a source. He is believed to be heading to Winthrop.

City Clerk Sergio Cornelio has apparently been stripped of several lucrative duties that pumped up his yearly income.

Some say this is the tip of the iceberg.

We shall wait and see.

Last week, we discussed the City’s financial woes.

This week, we take a closer look at some of the possible reasons for the city’s “liquidity crunch (please read the Leader Herald editorial).”

Certainly, the Covid Era has had a damaging effect on the city’s fragile finances.

Tax collections are off. Many Everett residents are out of work.

PE and programs designed to ease the effects of the pandemic on Everett residents, as well as local businesses, were unanticipated – although one could argue preparing and insuring against such disasters is the very purpose of a “rainy day fund.”

Everett received substantial funding and aid from the Commonwealth to mitigate the effects of these Covid-related expenses.

Where did all of this state aid go?

We are asking the mayor – where did it go?

The mayor spends taxpayer money on his political organization and his pet projects as though he heads the Federal Reserve Board.

The mayor’s administration lacks transparency about the city’s finances.

Here it is, more than a week into the fiscal year and no budget for the city council has been produced for its review.

No audited (or unaudited for that matter) financial statements have been posted on the City Finance Department’s website since FY2017, even though we are in FY2021.

Everett City Hall. (Photo By Jim Mahoney)

Here’s the run down as we understand it at this moment:

OFFICE OF THE CITY SOLICITOR
The City Solicitor position received a $9,400 stipend for the additional responsibility of functioning as a Records Access Officer (RAO). The salary for that position went from $111,000 per year in FY2019 to $113,000 per year in FY2020, plus the RAO stipend of $9,400, bringing the total salary for this position to $122,400 per year, a 10.27% increase. Anyone who has seen the City Solicitor’s Office in action might question whether they are representing the City or the Mayor; although, at Attorney Pappalardo’s $750 hourly rate, this salary seems like quite a bargain.

OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK
Similarly, the City Clerk, whom we like, also received a Records Access Officer stipend of $7,200.00 per year on top of the salary budgeted for the position, which was already increased over the FY2019 level by $9,000. If you look up the definition City Clerk in the dictionary, I am pretty sure that it refers to the ministerial and record keeping functions inherent in that position. In fact, the City Charter (section 2-8) refers to the record keeping responsibilities of that position. The mayor has apparently stripped these perks, among others, from the city clerk’s salary.

OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
Where do we even begin in this department? The Mayor received a $14,000 raise in the FY2020 budget, in addition to the $12,000 car allowance, bringing his salary to $186,000. But because of the way the fiscal year versus the charter year runs, his actual salary – per the City Charter – $185,000 per year, plus the car allowance of $12,000, which makes his effective salary $197,000 per year.

His Chief of Staff, which is a part-time position at 18.5 hours per week, is the “Chief of Staff/Legal Counsel” position as referenced in the old budget, at a salary of $80,000 per year. Not bad for part-time worker who is not a licensed lawyer in the state of Massachusetts according to the Mass Bar Association! The mayor has apparently cut O’Donnell’s salary by $50,000 (as mentioned earlier in this column.

HUMAN RESOURCES
The HR Director’s position was reclassified to the “Di- rector of HR/Legal Counsel” position (just what the Mayor needs, another attorney). That salary went from $98,838 in FY2019 to $120,000 in FY2020. That is a 21.41% increase. And to take some of the “pressure” off the Director of HR/Legal Counsel, the position of Deputy Director of HR was created, at a salary of $75,000 per year.

Also Account #5151 went from an appropriation of $200,000 in FY2019 to $1,000,000 in FY2020 without so much as an explanatory note on this line item (we are not saying that there is any wrongdoing here, but at least a couple of words to explain the purpose of the 400% increase might be helpful to any resident who might want to see where his or her tax dollars maybe going).

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The salary for the position of Director of Health and Human Services was increased from $84,897 in FY2019 to $126,140 in FY2020, which is a 48.58% increase in one year. This is all about the mayor’s doing.

WYNN HOST COMMUNITY AGREEMENT
As we reported last week and have reiterated this week, Encore Boston Harbor missed its March and June payments under the terms of their host agreement. We see no penalties built into the contract for missed or delayed payments. Similarly, we see no stated minimum payments for the local option portion of the meals tax nor any minimum payments for the local hotel room tax. The Host Community Agreement between the City of Boston and Sterling Suffolk Racecourse was 186 pages in length. Everett’s Host Community Agreement was 21 pages long. I guess it was nice for Steve Wynn and the mayor to design the host agreement to the advantage of Wynn Resorts.

The mayor and the city government need to come clean with the taxpayers.

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