At a public meeting recently, an audience member noted that the Common Council has "the power of the purse." Last night, the Council may have taken that power a little too far. Each month, at its regular meeting, the Council votes to approve paying the bills. Last night, the Council decided not to pay a bill for $12,000 to the lawyers who are representing the City in contract negotiations with the union that represents the Hudson Police Department.
Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who has served on the Council since 2014, was first to question the item. When told what it was for the lawyers who were negotiating the police contract, she wanted to know why city attorney Andy Howard couldn't do that. (The attorneys who are handling the negotiations have been doing it for at least a decade.) She seemed outraged when Council president Tom DePietro told her that $12,000 was only part of the bill, which would total $17,500.
Garriga then asked if the Common Council Police Committee was involved in the contract negotiations. When told no, she protested, "The entire Council has been left out." Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) then took up the plaint, saying, "[The police budget] is the biggest expenditure, and the Council is left out."
Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) advised, "The Council can make changes. To assert ourselves into the process will make it take more time." It should be noted that the Council can also reject the contract altogether, which has happened in the past.
Garriga suggested that the attorneys not be paid until the Council was satisfied with the contract. When the decision to withhold payment came up for a vote, five aldermen--Kamal Johnson (First Ward), Garriga, Dewan Sarowar (Second Ward), Calvin Lewis (Third Ward), Rosenthal--voted in favor of withholding payment, and four aldermen--Rob Bujan (First Ward), Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), Halloran, and Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward)--voted against withholding payment. Even though the vote was not tied, DePietro, who makes a point of not voting except in the case of the tie, voted in favor of withholding payment.
What impact this action might have on the ongoing contract negotiations with the union is unclear.
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