Four council members could get legislative aides after an acrimonious battle at the City Council on Tuesday night that included exchanges of personal attacks.
In a 5-4 vote council members opted to keep $60,000 in the introduced budget to fund the hiring of aides for Al Abdelaziz, Shahin Khalique, Maritza Davila, and Flavio Rivera.
“My constituent base isn’t in approval of me having aides, but that doesn’t mean some of the other council people aren’t entitled,” said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, in casting the key vote in keeping funds to hire part-time aides for $25,000 each.
Funds cover the salary of four aides for eight months, according to the business administrator. Before the vote, council members engaged in a bitter discussion that included personal insults and attacks.
“I’m not feeling proud of our conduct and our behavior tonight,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
The first flashpoint involved Lilisa Mimms and Abdelaziz.
Mimms, councilwoman at-large, moved to remove the aides funding from mayor Andre Sayegh’s introduced budget.
“I don’t want an aide. If the aides are not removed from this budget, I am voting this budget down. It is not something we need. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or four,” said Mimms.
Abdelaziz said Mimms is showing how fiscally responsible she is by spending time discussing a tiny piece of the $253 million budget. He accused her of “grandstanding” on the issue. He told her to not to take an aide if she doesn’t need one.
“Watch yourself, councilman. Don’t you disrespect me. I have not disrespected you, do not do it to me,” retorted Mimms.
Council members spent more than 2 hours – a third of the six-hour meeting – discussing the aides.
Abdelaziz and other council members in favor of hiring aides argued it will save money. Currently, the city assigns secretaries to council members. The salary of one secretary could fund two aides, they argued. Council members who hire aides will lose their secretaries. These secretaries would then be moved elsewhere.
Then came another acrimonious exchange, this time, between Rivera and William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
Rivera mentioned McKoy, the longest serving member of the council, receives health benefits and longevity raises.
“Councilman, are you sure you want to go there?” remarked McKoy.
“Yes. I want to go there. 100-percent,” replied Rivera. He said McKoy makes twice as much as other council members in pay and benefits.
McKoy said he was elected when council members received health insurance and longevity pay, both of which were later eliminated by the state. He was elected in 2000, successfully won election five times, including against Rivera, he said.
“To raise that issue as if there’s skullduggery going, some mystery going on is beneath you,” said McKoy.
After the chaotic discussion, which often included audience members shouting and hurling insults, council members put up competing motions and counter motions on the floor. Ultimately, the council voted to keep funding for the four aides and the introduced budget vote was postponed to the Oct. 8 meeting.
Abdelaziz, Jackson, Khalique, Rivera, and Davila voted in favor. Cotton, Mimms, McKoy, and Velez voted against.
The aides funding could jeopardize the mayor’s introduced budget. Some council members indicated if aides funding remains in the budget, they will vote it down. Six council members are up for re-election next year – some of them may vote against the budget for having a 2-percent tax increase.