A special meeting of the City Council will take place Tuesday at 5 p.m. via zoom teleconference to vote on Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1.
This one is weird and coming down to the wire because the council, per City Charter, must vote on the budget by the end of the evening May 10 after which it submits the fiscal plan to the mayor for possible veto action. If it doesn’t act the mayor’s proposed plan is the adopted budget, not changes made by the council.
But here’s another rub: does the City Council have the authority to call this meeting? The City Charter declares the mayor must call special meetings with all council members served papers by city sheriffs with at least 24 hours notice of the meeting time.
City Council leadership has a different take on this. The following email was issued to council members Monday 3 p.m.
Good afternoon –
The City Council is planning to move ahead with its currently and duly scheduled special meeting for Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. via Zoom in light of health concerns.
The Charter holds that the budget, as passed out of committee, “shall be submitted to the mayor not later than the second Tuesday in May of each year.” (Chapter 9, Section 5, g.)
While ordinance 2.06.030 lays out provisions for summoning council members to a special meeting, according to the FOIC, as long as the Special Meeting has been properly and duly noticed, which it has, then that meeting can move ahead.
Accordingly, we expect Council members to convene via Zoom to take up the budget passed last Wednesday by the Budget & Appropriations Committee.
Votes on revenue and expenditure increases and decreases and the budget as a whole (five total votes) would thus be in order.
Council President Aidee Nieves
Budget Co-chair Ernest Newton
City Council rep 130th District
Co-chair Budget & Appropriations; Co-chair ECD&E;
Liaison to Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce
Three members of the council can request the mayor call the meeting but no such request reached the mayor’s office.
Machinations are at play here between some council members and the mayor. The seven-member Budget & Appropriations Committee whacked five discretionary appointees from the mayor’s proposed fiscal plan. The council can eliminate positions but not personnel so those moves have taken on a personal tone.
The budget committee cut an assistant position to the chief administrative officer. Those jobs are held by Herron Gaston, a candidate for state senate and John Gomes, former mayoral candidate who is once again making noise about running for the city’s top job. That move is targeted at Gomes who council members assert has been disengaged from the job.
They also cut positions occupied by four other discretionary appointees including Danny Pizarro, Angel DePara and David Papandrea.
The mayor views this as the council committee usurping its authority.
Budget committee co-chair Ernie Newton says he questioned the rationale for going after those specific appointees, arguing going down this road could cause some issues. “Why limit it to them?” he told OIB the morning after, adding he suspects this is more about selective personality clashes.
The mayor did not call for the special meeting and no one from the council requested he do so Monday. As a result, council leadership called the meeting. If the clock runs out on the council, there’s no reason to veto anything because the budget Ganim submitted becomes the adopted budget.
A read from the City Attorney’s Office declares, based on the City Charter, the council has no authority to call the meeting. The meeting must be called by the mayor and all council members served notice by city sheriffs. Two lawyers interviewed by OIB, independent of the City Attorney’s Office, say their read of the charter is the same.
Another subplot: a number of City Council members have echoed they are more concerned about attending various political conventions for elective office Monday and Tuesday than prioritizing a vote on the budget.
Stay tuned. Let’s see how this plays out. Get ready for a lot of back and forth on this one.
From the City Charter:
Not later than the seventh day after action on the budget is completed, the city council shall, by resolution, set a mil rate for the ensuing fiscal year, which shall, together with other sources of revenue, generate sufficient funds to support the budget adopted by the city council. Such resolution may be disapproved by the mayor in the manner set forth in subSection (e) of this section. For the purposes of this section, action on the budget shall be deemed to be completed when (1) the budget takes effect pursuant to subSection (h) of this section; or (2) the mayor approves the budget or it becomes effective without the mayor’s approval pursuant to subSection (g) of this section; or (3) the city council completes action on any and all items disapproved by the mayor pursuant to subSection (g) of this section.
The budget adopted by the city council as provided in subSection (b) shall be submitted to the mayor not later than the second Tuesday in May of each year. The mayor shall sign the adopted budget if he/she approves it, or within fourteen days after adoption of the budget by the city council as provided herein, the mayor may veto any action taken by the city council pursuant to subSection (d) of this section. The veto power of the mayor shall be that of a line item veto only, and any such veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the city council. If the mayor shall disapprove any action by the city council, he/she shall, no later than the close of business on the last day of said fourteen day period, return the proposed budget to the city council with a statement of objections. Thereupon, the president of the city council shall call a meeting of said council to be held no later than seven days after the receipt of the mayor’s veto. At such meeting the mayor’s statement of his reasons for disapproving any item shall be read to the city council and thereafter another vote shall be taken on such item and if it passes the city council by a two-thirds vote of the whole number of council members, it shall become operative and effectual without the approval of the mayor. If, within fourteen days after the adoption of a budget by the city council, as provided herein, the mayor neither signs the adopted budget nor disapproves any action of the city council, said budget shall become operative and effectual without such approval.
If the city council fails to adopt the budget by the second Tuesday in May of any year, the budget proposed by the mayor shall become the budget of the city for the ensuing fiscal year.
Transfers between line items of the adopted budget may be requested by the mayor, the director of policy and management or the head of any budgeted agency and be approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the council members present and voting. Such transfers may be disapproved in the manner set forth in Chapter 5 of this charter.
Notice of special meetings of the
city council shall be given by causing the call of any such meeting, signed by the mayor, to be served by a city sheriff or some indifferent person reading the same to, or leaving a true and attested copy thereof with or at the usual place of abode of the mayor and each council member, at least twenty-four (24) hours before the hour designated for holding any such meeting, or when necessary, as provided in Chapter 5, Section 10(b) of the city Charter; and the person making such service shall at once make return of his doings upon such call, and file the same with the city clerk. The city council, when convened in special meeting under such call, may act upon any matter that may be mentioned in such call.
CITY COUNCIL MEETING
TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2022
This meeting will be conducted by Teleconference.
The public may listen into this meeting by calling the following conference line and then entering the conference code:
Dial-In Number: (929) 436-2866
Meeting ID: 381 083 245
Pledge of Allegiance
MATTERS TO BE ACTED UPON:
63-21 Budget and Appropriations Committee Report re: General Fund Budget a,b,c,d,e for Fiscal Year 2022-2023 – Votes as follows:
a. Revenue Increases
b. Revenue Decreases
c. Appropriation Increases
d. Appropriation Decreases
e. General Fund Budget Fiscal Year 2022-2023 as amended.
Taxpayers, and others interested in improved governance and more effective financial decisions, do you understand what is happening TODAY before your eyes? Enough City Council members have an idea, or two, or more, alternative to the primacy of the Mayor, and a right time to exercise such ideas. Call it BUDGET TIME. It appears that CC has done its work and offers a CC budget response within the May 10 deadline, but evidence for the public is that Ganim2 may have gone deaf (?), or perhaps photo shy?
(Ignoring Charter duties such as allowing the death of two public commissions from Mayoral dysfunction to appoint new members to replace those with expiring terms is an accomplished practice on his part in the case of FAIR Rent and FAIR Housing, for instance.)
Ganim2 takes longer than many municipal leaders to make public his prospective budget each year, thus giving less time to Council members to provide oversight and an informed vote, per Charter.
Ganim2 has the opportunity of a ‘bully pulpit’ from which to announce such a budget and frame it to whatever story line hits his mood annually; but often fails to share such ‘thoughtful priorities’ with public bodies or the press. Invisible people, filling fluffy positions, earning rewards for unspoken activity and behavior may possibly be corrupt if the stories in each instance are told.
Ganim2 fails to turn a light onto the annual audit results from which he might derive good news but it would also allow the Council and the voting public to better understand our fiscal universe.
Ganim2 is happy with status quo but does not share why. As the status quo is challenged at BUDGET TIME will he open his eyes and ears to the reality of a new day calling for different strokes?
Ganim2 has neither listened to Council and community consensus majority belief that having a City job demands working with energy and effort , securing visible results is a worthwhile political pursuit.
Who will better represent the taxpayer and the voters? Time will tell.