Holy cow. An object the size of Mars has hit planet Earth tilting it at a 45 degree angle: Mayor Joe Ganim and City Councilwoman Maria Pereira agree on something.
Pereira and her council partner Michele Small add their voices to the “illegal special council meeting” called by leadership of the City Council.
Dear City Council President Nieves, Councilman Burns & Councilman Newton,
We are writing in response to the events that have transpired within the City Council leadership following the City Clerk email notice of an agenda for “Special City Council Meeting” for Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at 5:00 PM.
The email was sent at 3:15 PM yesterday, May 9, 2022.
As all of you know, an article has already appeared in the CTPOST and in the Only in Bridgeport blog regarding this situation.
The articles have indicated that moving forward with this meeting would result in an illegal meeting.
We have reviewed the relevant Charter and Code of Ordinances Sections and it appears that, in fact, the meeting will not comply with provisions in our City Charter and in our Code of Ordinances.
For purposes of this discussion, we will cite those sections that we believe impact this situation:
Chapter 9 Sections 5 (a)-5 (h) of the City Charter is entitled: Budget; Mill Rate.
While this section refers to the entire budget process, it is section (g) and section (h) that most concern us at this time.
It is quite clear in the Charter language that section (g) requires the City Council to submit its adopted budget to the Mayor no later than the second Tuesday in May, which is today. (We have highlighted section (g) below.)
Section (h) also clearly states that if the Council fails to adopt a budget by the second Tuesday in May, the budget proposed by the Mayor shall become the budget of the City. (We have also highlighted section (h) below.)
“(a) The city council shall have the power to levy taxes on the polls and estates within the limits of the city for such purposes as the city is by law authorized. Every tax hereafter laid by the city council shall be laid upon the grand list of the city, which shall have been made according to law next before the laying of such tax.
(b)Each budgeted agency shall, on or before a date determined by the mayor, report to the office of policy and management an estimate of the amount of money required agency for the next ensuing fiscal year, giving details as far as practicable.
(c)Not later than the first Tuesday in April of each year, the mayor shall present to the city council a proposed budget for the ensuing fiscal year. The proposed budget shall include the following information: (1) an itemized statement of appropriations proposed by the mayor for current expenses, capital items and permanent improvements for each budgeted agency for the ensuing fiscal year together with comparative statements, in parallel columns of the requests made by the various budgeted agency of the appropriations and expenditures for the current and preceding fiscal years; the increase and decrease between the current and ensuing fiscal years in the appropriations recommend; and the expenditure estimates required by clause (c)(3) of this section; (2) an itemized statement of the taxes required and of the estimated revenues of the city from all other sources for the ensuing fiscal year with comparative statements, in parallel columns, of the taxes and other revenues for current and preceding fiscal years; of the increase and decrease estimated or proposed, and the revenue estimates required by clause (c)(3) of this section; (3) an estimate of the expenditures required by each budgeted agency for the fiscal year following the next ensuing fiscal year and an estimate of the taxes required and of the estimated revenues of the city from all other sources for the fiscal year following the next ensuing fiscal year; (4) a statement of the assumptions on which the estimates required by clause (c)(3) are based; and (5) such other information as the city council shall, by ordinance, require. The estimates and statements required by clauses (c)(3) and (c)(4) of this Section shall be advisory only.
(d)The city council shall have the following powers with respect to any item in the budget recommended by the mayor.
(1) It shall have the power to reduce or delete any item in the budget recommended by the mayor by a majority vote of the council members present and voting;
(2) It shall have the power to increase any item in said budget or add new items to said budget only on a two-thirds (2/3) affirmative vote of the entire membership of the council.
(e)Prior to taking final action on the proposed budget and mill rate the city council shall hold at least one public hearing at which members of the public shall be allowed to comment thereon.
(f)Not later than the seventh day after action on the budget is completed, the city council shall, by resolution, set a mill 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 sub-Section (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.
(g)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.
(h)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.” (Emphasis added)
In our view the next relevant Charter section is Chapter 5, Section 5 (a) the section that addresses the process used to call a meeting or a special meeting of the City Council.
“Section 5. (a) The city council shall hold regular meetings at such times as may be fixed by ordinance and may be specially convened at any time by the mayor and shall be convened by him/her or upon the written request of three council members within a reasonable time after the they receive such request. (Emphasis added)
As unacceptable as it may be to all of us as Council Members, especially in light of our constant cries of being an equal branch of government, it does not appear that the City Council can call its own meeting. It must be called by the Mayor.
The language of this section of the Charter is in the alternative, in other words, a meeting can be convened by the Mayor or upon the written request of three council members. As far as we know, there is no evidence that three council members have filed a written request with the Mayor.
And even if the three members had filed a written request for a meeting, the plain language of the Charter states that after receiving the request, the Mayor has a reasonable time within which to act on the request.
Clearly, City Council and Budget Committee leadership have not complied with this section of the Charter.
Code of Ordinances, in Section 2.06.030 which we have pasted on to this email, is also relevant to this discussion and it reads as follows:
“2.06.030 – Special meetings.
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.” (Emphasis added)
There is no evidence that the City Council leadership has complied with this section of the Code of Ordinances or any other relevant sections.
While Councilman Newton advises us in his email and we quote exactly from his email,
“Our mayor doesn’t have the right to do nothing. Our charter said if 3 member of the city council sign’s a petition to call us in for a special meeting the mayor must call a special meeting. We are a equal branch of government and not a dictator branch of government.”
We respectfully disagree with the leadership’s conclusion and have determined from our understanding of the language of the Charter and Code of Ordinances that the City Council is without authority to proceed with the meeting it has scheduled for today whether held via zoom at 5:00 PM or in-person in the City Council Chambers at 6:00 PM.
In addition, the City Clerk’s Office issued a Cancellation Notice for tonight’s Special City Council Meeting which is posted on the City Council’s homepage under Agendas/Minutes, therefore any meeting held tonight would be an absolute violation of the Freedom of Information Act which will result in a FOIA complaint.
The City Charter, Ordinances, FOIA & state statutes must be adhered to at all times whether they support your point-of-view and perspective or not. The law is the law.