The city council has responded to Mayor Pedro Segarra’s veto of an ordinance that would require the mayor to get council approval for all overtime and hiring not already budgeted. The proposal passed 7-2 at a city council meeting last week. Segarra vetoed it on Tuesday.
To read more about the issue, click here and here.
Some city council members told me yesterday that they appear to have the seven votes to override the mayor’s veto. The press release sent out by members of the panel today seems to reinforce that. Members said they will likely take up the issue at this Monday’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
This statement was issued by council members this afternoon:
Hartford City Councilmembers Issue Statement in Response to Mayor’s Veto
HARTFORD – Council President Shawn Wooden and Councilmembers Kyle Anderson, Joel Cruz, Larry Deutsch, Cynthia Jennings, Ken Kennedy and David MacDonald today issued the following statement in response to Mayor Segarra’s veto of a resolution requiring Council approval for overtime expenditures beyond the budget and imposing a hiring freeze:
In 2010, following his ascension to the role of Chief Executive Officer, Mayor Segarra was quoted as saying he believes strongly in “collaboration and cooperation and communication” between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council. In light of the overwhelming support of this resolution by members of the City Council, we are disappointed in the Mayor’s reaction to legitimate concerns of fiscal accountability and the lack of collaboration in working through the implementation of this oversight. We want to work with the Mayor to move our city forward together. However, as a City Council with budgetary responsibilities granted by the city Charter, we have an independent obligation to answer to and protect the taxpayers of our city.
“I don’t agree with the Mayor’s opinion that this resolution infringes on his authority,” Councilman David MacDonald said. “This resolution is fulfilling the Council’s responsibility for oversight of the executive branch. With respect to implementation, I’m sure we can work out an approach that will not jeopardize public safety. However, it is important that we stop the infringement of Council’s authority to set a budget and require the administration to manage within it. The abuse of overtime must stop now.”
“While the Mayor has the power to veto Council actions, we all have an obligation to address the city’s failure to get overtime spending under control,” said Councilman Kyle Anderson, Chair of the Council’s committee with oversight of public safety. “It cannot be a can that we continue to kick down the road; it needs to be addressed. The police department will likely exceed its overtime budget in the coming months, due in large part to special events. Though $23,056 was budgeted this fiscal year for special events, a total of $364,747.24 was spent in 2012. These costs must be reined in without compromising public safety, and assertions to the contrary are misleading and disingenuous.”
“Essentially, the Mayor is seeking autonomy to determine the extent to which the city can spend beyond its means, without being accountable to the City Council or the taxpayers of this City,” Minority Leader Larry Deutsch said. “This is about fiscal responsibility, the same fiscal responsibility the Mayor cited when, as Chair of the Operations, Management and Budget Committee, he sought the power to subpoena department heads to respond to city spending.”
The Council is committed to ensuring the safety of our neighbors and to the efficient delivery of services. We applaud the work of the dedicated men and women who protect and serve us in the Police, Fire and Public Works departments, and we would never seek to put anyone at risk. That said, just as the Mayor acknowledges we all must answer to residents regarding the hiring freezes and overtime spending, we must also answer to them when they receive their tax bills and want answers to adding to their financial burden in the face of tough economic times.
“My vote on this resolution was the based on my understanding of the City’s current financial challenges,” Councilman Joel Cruz said. “As we begin looking at balancing overtime expenses in particular, I am confident that we will hold public safety and quality of life as our number one priority.”
“We want to be able to work collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office to balance the service needs of the City with fiscal accountability,” Councilwoman Cynthia R. Jennings said. “In his veto, he cites the President’s power in this regard; such pronouncements are not spelled out in the City’s Charter, which is the document by which the Mayor should seek to govern. We are hopeful that he will work with us to serve the City’s best interests.”