Parliamentary Gaffes Are Crucial Mistakes
By Josh Resnek
The city council is apparently united in what appears to be a final decision allowing the mayor to remain earning $2,500 a year in longevity instead of the mayor receiving a $1,700 stipend such as those paid yearly to city department heads with maximum time served.
The $1,700 a year Councilor Stephanie Smith motion for that payment passed two weeks ago in a 6-4 vote.
Following the mayor’s highly public calls to councilors for them to consider changing their votes, they did just that last Thursday.
Several improper parliamentary malfunctions took place at the beginning of the special meeting and during the meeting last Thursday.
There were supposed to be two motions on the agenda. Only one was allowed to be heard.
Council President John Hanlon rushed the agenda piece on the $2,500 longevity payment.
The mayor called Hanlon several days before the vote according to two councilors.
Hanlon insists he wasn’t called.
Another meeting is now required and set for the first Tuesday in March to listen as required to an amendment offered by Councilor Jimmy Le last Thursday but not allowed to be put up for discussion by Hanlon.
Hanlon has conceded privately to several of his colleagues that he did not make the right call denying an amendment to be offered before taking a vote to give the mayor $2,500 a year.
There was some hope Hanlon would file for reconsideration.
He refused to do that.
What is certain, the mayor will no longer be receiving the $40,000 a year longevity payment approved by CFO Eric Demas and City Solicitor Colleen Mejia.
Demas did not list the payment to the mayor of $40,000 as a line item in the last four budgets.
Such an omission is extraordinary considering Demas is the architect of the city budget.
When asked by the council several months back if the $40,000 a year payment was legal, Mejia seemed to indicate not only was the payment legal by her reading of the ordinance, but she also believed it would have been against the law for the mayor not to take it, ergo, he had to take it.
The Attorney General’s Office replied to a council request for a rendering by suggesting strongly in a letter that the council refer the matter to the Inspector General’s office.
A detailed request for a ruling from the Inspector General’s office was mailed out by the city council ten days ago.
A ruling from the Inspector General’s office is expected shortly.
A request for comment from the Inspector General’s office was denied.
Some councilors have said it is up to the mayor whether or not the mayor pays back the $180,000 he has been given.
“Can you tell me what that’s about!” complained an outraged Councilor Mike Marchese.
“Can you imagine leaving it to the mayor to pay anyone back, let alone the taxpayers?” he asked. “He doesn’t pay his water bill, for God sakes!”
“He must be ordered to pay back the money. When you rob a bank and you’re caught, you need to pay back what you stole. That philosophy works perfectly in this instance,” Marchese added.
“Let’s see what the Inspector General says.”