We ran a story early Wednesday about how members of the city council want to take a closer look at which city employees receive bonuses from the administration and why. Council members cited concerns over the budget (the city is facing a $9.4 million shortfall this year and a projected $70 deficit next year) and said the bonuses were inappropriate considering that Mayor Pedro Segarra laid off 14 people this past fall.
Segarra’s spokeswoman on Wednesday defended the bonuses, saying Segarra’s administration had reduced the amount given to employees by more than two-thirds since 2009, a year in which the city handed out $84,000 in bonuses.
A proposal by Councilman Kenneth Kennedy would give the council — instead of the mayor — the power to hand out bonuses (in essence, the final say on who gets how much and why). Council members said today that the proposal would probably be taken up at Monday’s regularly scheduled council meeting.
Today, the mayor issued an additional statement on the matter via a press release:
“To suggest that we don’t take Hartford’s fiscal challenges seriously is completely false and inconsistent with every financial decision I’ve made since the day I took office. The ESI’s are just that; compensation for additional responsibilities or the delivery of services that goes above and beyond the usual. The average ESI amount is $2,000 and they fall within the allotted payroll budget that is approved by Council. We follow a judicious process that involves a series of interdepartmental approvals, all within the parameters set forth by Human Resources.
“To juxtapose them with the 14 individuals who were laid off is false advertising. The layoffs were a result of not securing $1MM in employee concessions; part of Council’s unanimously approved budget. The ESI’s are distributed only after thoughtful consideration, many of those employees have also taken furlough days; questioning them suddenly undermines their hard work, including Mr. Kennedy’s assistant who received one in 2011.
“My administration is focused on real solutions to our fiscal challenges, such as reducing department budgets, updating salary classifications and salary ranges, attracting and developing businesses, restructuring our debt, and stabilizing our finances. Unfortunately, some have short memories; my comments opposing an ESI in 2010 were made when the aggregate value was over $100,000 per year, the unemployment rate was higher and one person received $11,000 after resigning. I’ve substantially decreased the amounts compared to the previous administration and we’re considering deferring them altogether next year. I’ve said this before. This political posturing distracts from the real work being done to balance the budget and move our City forward.”