Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration included funding for the controversial hiring of nine legislative aides in its introduced budget on Tuesday night triggering a battle amongst City Council members.
Sayegh’s move could jeopardize his introduced budget.
William McKoy, the city’s longest serving member of the City Council, who is opposed spending money on hiring aides, threatened to vote down the introduced budget if funding for the nine aides remained.
“I’m not supporting it and if it’s in the introduced budget it’s a problem for me,” said McKoy.
Councilwoman Lilisa Mimms said she will also vote against the introduced budget if the line item remains.
“I was the one that caught it,” said Mimms. She pointed out to her colleagues the aides funding was in the introduced budget on Tuesday night.
Sayegh’s administration listed $149,200 in the budget for City Council aides. Municipal officials reduced the amount from $225,000 because three months of the fiscal year has elapsed.
“We’re being put in a very challenging position here. What I am hearing from the council is some members will vote down the budget because of this item. That presents a huge challenge for us,” said business administrator Vaughn McKoy.
“It’s going to be challenge regardless,” interjected council president Maritza Davila. She walked out of the council chambers, slammed a door, and left City Hall in a fit of temper.
Council members Davila, Flavio Rivera, Al Abdelaziz, and Shahin Khalique favor hiring aides. Others are against it.
Council members Ruby Cotton and Michael Jackson had ambiguous positions on the issue, but on Tuesday both came out against hiring aides.
“I’m not in need of an aide,” said Jackson. “My voter base would not approve of me having an aide.”
Cotton said there are some full-time employees making $30,000 in the city. She saw it as unfair to hire part-time aides for $25,000.
Rivera clashed with Velez and McKoy at the meeting over hiring aides.
“We’re not spending any additional taxpayer money. I just don’t understand what’s the problem,” said Rivera. His plan involves moving secretaries from the City Council Office to elsewhere to free up funds to hire aides.
A secretary, with benefits, makes more than twice the proposed salary of a part-time aide. An aide would be hired at $25,000.
Rivera and Davila want each individual council members to decide whether they want an aide. Rivera said if a council member doesn’t want an aide the line item in the budget could be reduced.
“We still have to vote for the budget. What are people going to say? You voted on a budget that approved aides,” said councilman Luis Velez.
Rivera told Velez the 5th Ward councilman would be in favor of hiring aides if he weren’t up for re-election in May. Indeed, six of the nine council members will be campaigning for re-election in less than three months.
“There is not an agreement on this issue,” said McKoy. “I think we should put this item on the agenda and vote for it.”
Law director Farah Irving issued an opinion suggesting the council take a vote on whether to hire aides.
“Because the council is splintered it should take a vote in the affirmative or otherwise,” said Irving.
Velez recommended the administration remove the aides’ item from the budget. He also wanted the pay increase for the business administrator and other directors out of the budget. A line item listed a pay increase for the business administrator.
Sayegh’s administration needs the introduced budget approved to apply for transitional aid. His budget document listed $24.65 million in state aid for fiscal 2020. He is also raising taxes by 2-percent, according to municipal documents.
Updated at 1:25 p.m.