In a controversial move, City Council President Clement Campana, D-At Large, introduced a proposed ordinance during the council's Finance Committee meeting Thursday which would amend the city's non-represented employees' policy by eliminating unnecessary positions and allowing city expenses, including salaries, to be adjusted in order to reduce the operating costs of city government.
We love it when they talk non-represented employees policy. Gets us hot and bothered. OK, so far so good. Moving on:
The 28-page ordinance took many members of the council by surprise as they attempted to quickly scan over the document in order to have some sort of objective discussion about the proposal, which would eliminate longevity payments and a tuition reimbursement program for city employees, as well as a number of administrative and clerical positions.
We're throwing the bullshit flag on this because it isn't fair to the Council. The Administration, by way of the previous Council, did that crap all the time. If you have a proposed ordinance, let the Council members see it in advance, especially one that is 28 pages long. Come on! Some of these guys haven't read twenty-eight pages since they were assigned Animal Farm in 8th Grade (and they know who they are).
One amendment to the policy which drew the most criticism was the redaction of a sentence in the "salaries" section which read, "In no event shall any employee in Group 'A' be paid less than that which was paid to the employee in the prior year budget."Corporation Counsel David Mitchell, the highest paid, mayor-appointed city employee in Group "A," with a current salary of $85,700, immediately warned members of the council that they would be met with litigation if the proposal was approved with that sentence redacted.
Mitchell then asked Campana, as well as other City Council members and City Clerk Bill McInerney, if they knew who had redacted the sentence. When no one answered him, after a brief shouting match, Mitchell stated that the matter would be settled in court.
Now we get down to the outrage. Lets discuss:
The Council has every right to strike that wording from that section. It's called an amendment and legislative bodies do it all the time.
Mitchell has no basis for any lawsuit surrounding the striking of that language from the existing ordinance. Just ignore him, like McInerny does. Mitchell has learned that McInerney cannot be intimidated.
More important is the history of that section of the ordinance. If you recall, that section was added at last year's Pig Out, when the post-election raises were handed out. That section violated the Charter then and violates the Charter today.
As the Mayor made clear, he sets salaries for a number of appointees, including the Corporation Counsel (remember, ignore him), the Deputy Mayor and the Comptroller.....
C-48 The Mayor shall fix, within the appropriations made therefor by the City Council and Mayor in the budget process, the salary or compensation of all officers and employees appointable by him/her. (Sec. K).
Setting aside the nuances of that section, in particular what can and cannot be done at budget time, it's clear that the Mayor fixes the salary of various appointees. And the fix was certainly in here.
§ C-21. Powers of City Council
(2) To amend this Charter by local law in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Home Rule Law except that any local law which abolishes, transfers, or curtails any power of the Mayor shall be subject to mandatory referendum.*
The section at issue curtails the Mayor's power to set the salaries of appointees. Those salaries can be raised by the Mayor, with Council approval, but not lowered. Why the Mayor, and his attorney (ignore him) would want to curtail the Mayor's authority is beyond us. Beyond us or not, it violates The Charter.
So, their you have it. The Council should not back down, especially in light of threats. They should not have backed down before and should not back down this time. There's no shame in being sued for trying to prevent raises for political appointees. Even if you lose, it's a win. This Spring, when the issue first came up, some majority members seemed to panic. A lawsuit! Egad! No, no and no! The public doesn't give a damn about legal technicalities. They knew the raises stank, knew they were sneaky, and the Council wasn't going to take a beating from the public for trying to pull the trough away. Remember, they only people who were outraged were those who directly benefited from those raises.
What they do after that section is taken off the books, and when they do it, is another story.
* And, if possible, the express, written consent of Major League Baseball.