NEW BRITAIN – Mayor Erin Stewart sent a letter to City Clerk Mark Bernacki this week officially vetoing the Common Council’s hiring freeze resolution from last week.
Last Wednesday, in a 9-5 roll call vote, the Democratic majority on the Common Council approved a resolution establishing an immediate hiring and promotion freeze in the city. The resolution applied to all jobs except public safety positions related to the police and fire departments, 911 dispatch and positions related to seasonal temporary employees for the Parks and Recreation Department.
There was controversy surrounding the resolution, though, as the city’s Corporation Counsel Gennaro Bizzarro repeatedly said he doesn’t believe the council has power to invoke a hiring freeze.
“It is disturbing that the nine sponsors of Resolution No. 34288 voted in the affirmative after Corporation Counsel Bizzarro provided a legal opinion that the Resolution was an illegal exercise of the Council’s power and beyond the scope of its authority,” Stewart said in her letter to Bernacki, dated May 1.
Stewart’s veto letter refers to Sec. 5-1(a), Sec. 5-2(d), Sec. 4-2(g) and Sec. 4-9 of the New Britain Charter as evidence the council can’t enact a hiring freeze. The city’s Charter and Code of Ordinances can be found online at www.newbritainct.gov/gov/charter_and_city_ordinances.htm .
“Resolution No. 34288 has nothing to do with setting a budget, but is rather an attempt to usurp a power which rests exclusively with the Mayor as the City’s Chief Executive Officer,” Stewart wrote.
The mayor ended her letter saying the council does not have authority to involve itself in either the hiring or promotional process in this manner.
Alderman Carlo Carlozzi said he was “disappointed” with the mayor’s decision to veto and wishes she would enact the freeze herself.
“My preference would have been that she understood the severity and the seriousness of what we were talking about and that she would go ahead and put it (the hiring freeze) into place herself, outside of the council,” Carlozzi said.
The alderman still contends that there is nothing in the charter preventing the council from enacting a hiring freeze.
“The charter does not grant this authority to the council, but as our Attorney Gennaro Bizzarro mentioned, nor does it prohibit the council from doing it. Therefore, in my opinion … it’s up for interpretation,” Carlozzi said.
Carlozzi said the Democratic majority will attempt to override Stewart’s veto during next week’s Common Council meeting. The council needs ten votes to override a veto.
“We are serious enough about cutting expenses in City Hall for us to put together a potential override,” Carlozzi said.
The Common Council next meets at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, City Hall.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.