Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Power of the Purse

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.


  1. The kabuki exchange between Garriga and DiPietro was obviously for show; why they want to delay the police union contract negotiation until Mussman assumes office is the better question.
    There hasn't been talk in any of the citywide races about defunding or reorganizing the police department, so it shouldn't matter that Rector is taking the reins on this negotiation. He's well within his power to do so or the Council wouldn't be making such a toothless threat to avoid paying the bills to which the city is contractually obligated.

  2. This action of the common council is beyond illogical. Did they even bother to check the attorney's contract? Did they just put the city in a legal bind? Why are they penalizing the consultant that is simply doing their job. It's a downright stupid action by some on the council with no legal justification. We should all be scared if this continues.