The Ordinance Committee last night voted 3-1 to cross out references to the personnel director in the City Charter, sending the matter to the full City Council for a vote and adding a new twist , whose job was de-funded by the City Council in next year's budget to save an estimated $100,000 in consolidation of services with the school department.
Any changes to the charter would ultimately have to be approved by voters in a ballot referendum.
But the charter changes would help bolster the city's case in court, said Councilman Steve Stycos before he was cut off by City Council Lawyer Patrick Quinlan, who said the nuances of the lawsuit shouldn't be discussed at the Ordinance Committee meeting.
Quinlan said the charter changes entailed looking for references to the personnel director and removing them or changing them to "personnel administration."
, is arguing in the Superior Court suit that the council's decision to zero-out the personnel director line item was a violation of the City Charter. The position is a mayoral appointment and by de-funding her position, she said, the council is usurping the mayor's executive authority.
The charter changes would undermine Bello's argument. As Quinlan explained, the changes would give the administration more flexibility in determining how to assign personnel duties to city staff, or to the school department.
"There would still be a division or department of personnel," Quinlan said. "The only thing we've done is take one position out of there."
Stycos urged his fellow committee members to approve the ordinance.
"It keeps the duties of the personnel department but it really leaves it up to the mayor as to how those duties will be performed and who will do those duties in personnel administration," Stycos said. "So it eliminates the requirement that there be a personnel director, but it keeps the function."
Councilman Paul Archetto raised concerns about the changes, noting he never supported de-funding Bello's position in the first place and disagreed with a characterization by Stycos that during the budget process the council moved to eliminate the personnel director job.
"The seven members of the council chose to de-fund the position, not to abolish it, we're opening a can of worms," Archetto said, raising concerns about the execution of personnel duties in the interim, such as administering tests, monitoring compliance with labor regulations and making sure all the red tape is managed properly.
Councilman Jim Donahue said the charter changes are simply to "give the mayor flexibility how he chooses to fulfill the personnel administration functions. . .and the school district would likely be the partner in that."
And "hopefully it will save the city $100,000 or so in the meantime," Donahue said.
It was noted that the school department handles personnel functions for many more employees than the city.
The job of personnel director is a mayoral appointment and has a salary of $61,562. Bello states that the position is classified and mandated in the City Charter, which should grant her the right for a termination hearing.
Specifically, according to the suit, the actions of the council are in violation of the section of the charter that states: “No member of the council shall direct or request the appointment of any person to or any person’s removal from any office or employment by the mayor or any of the mayor’s subordinates or in any way take part in the appointment or removal of officers and employees of the city expect as specifically provided in the charter,” instructing the council to “deal with the administrative services of the city solely through the mayor.”