Members of the City Council should take a vote on whether to go ahead with the controversial plan to hire nine aides for $225,000, urged law director Farrah Irving in a memorandum on Friday.
Irving suggests the City Council pass a resolution to create the jobs. Her memo came in response to a public outcry against council members hiring aides.
“Given the Council’s past practices, as well as the amount of public scrutiny and level of exposure, I recommend that Council adopts a resolution authorizing the hiring of Aides to Council Members, even though it may not be legally required,” wrote Irving in her memo dated Aug. 16, 2019. “This position is new for Paterson and the amount of negative media will likely continue. especially since all members of the Council do not appear to be aligned with its creation. Proceeding without a resolution will expose the Council, as well as the Administration, to claims that the City of Paterson acted outside the scope of its authority by hiring the Aides to Council Members.”
Several speakers at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting asked whether a resolution is needed to hire the aides, notes the memo.
Council members have been divided on hiring aides.
“I think it’s only proper given the conversation at the meeting,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. He said the idea hasn’t been properly fleshed out and many questions remain unanswered.
What happens to an aide when a council member retires or loses an election? Will the aide, who was hired to fill a New Jersey Civil Service job, be transferred elsewhere or terminated?
Irving’s memo states the aide jobs are “unique” because the employees will report directly to council members. She stated the administration may not have the ability to transfer, move, or direct them.
“I don’t think it’s prudent or necessary to hire aides at this moment. How are you going to justify it?” remarked Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman. While the council is considering part-time aides for $25,000 each, there are full-time municipal employees earning $30,000 per year, he said.
“There needs to be a full conversation,” said Lilisa Mimms, councilwoman at-large. “It needs to be an open and transparent process.”
Under a revised plan, council members, who want to hire aides, would have to give up their secretaries. For example, proponents of the plan argue it’s much more cost effective to have aides than secretaries. Two aides could be hired for the salary of a secretary. No secretary would lose her job, but be transferred elsewhere.
Flavio Rivera, councilman at-large, called Irving’s memo “irresponsible.” He expressed his frustration at the administration’s sudden position shift. Irving told members of the City Council at a finance committee meeting a resolution was not needed to hire aides, he said. Other officials in mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration – including the business administrator and the personnel director – also said the same, said Rivera.
Rivera pointed out the administration advertised the jobs and interviews were conducted. He said some applicants were already sent for drug testing.
Behind the scenes talks to hire aides have been going on for almost five months. Council members had been reluctant to speak about hiring aides heading into the 2020 municipal elections. Six of the nine council members are up for re-election, making it a difficult and unpopular subject.
Rivera and others have argued hiring aides will help them better serve constituents. Council members are part-time – many have full-time jobs, making it difficult to respond to constituents during business hours.
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Updated 12:07 p.m.