Mayor Andre Sayegh told employees in a memorandum on Monday to “expect a delayed paycheck” this week because of the ongoing dispute between the mayor and the City Council over spending.
Sayegh is embroiled in dispute with the City Council over a temporary budget. Council members rejected his temporary spending measure last Tuesday for the second time. He unsuccessfully attempted to call for an emergency meeting.
“They rejected the temporary budget twice and denied my request for an emergency meeting today,” said Sayegh on Monday.
Council members have cited a variety of reasons for refusing to approve government spending. Initially, they said the mayor was slow in presenting the City Council with an introduced budget. Sayegh presented the introduced budget last Tuesday.
Sayegh also complied with council members’ request to present a one month, June, temporary budget, but even the single month spending measure was rejected last Tuesday. His administration initially wanted appropriations for June and July.
“He has continued with the reckless spending. The only way I can stop it is by doing this,” said council president Flavio Rivera.
Rivera said Sayegh is moving ahead with an unnecessary $120,000 new finance job. He and other council members wanted him to cease creating the new title. He also pointed out Sayegh’s administration ran a sham hiring process to fill the position, he said.
“All I need for the mayor to say is he is not going to pursue the position,” said Rivera.
“He is not willing to remove that from the temporary appropriations,” added councilman Alex Mendez speaking of the $120,000 job.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is important to continue to find savings where we can. In this instance, we were able to consolidate several positions which creates a $400,000 cost savings and contributes to no increase in the municipal tax levy,” said Sayegh. He did not provide details about which positions were consolidated.
Sayegh wants the council to approve $23 million to cover government operations for June. Councilman Michael Jackson said he proposed a compromise. Jackson wants the Sayegh administration to present a temporary budget that excludes pay of the mayor’s office, council members, and the business administrator’s office.
“I’m trying to be responsible. The mayor is trying to pass the buck,” said Jackson. “Employees should not pay the price for political posturing.”
Sayegh is up for re-election in 11 months.
“I would like to tell the mayor to stop playing politics,” added councilman Luis Velez. He said Sayegh is giving out dubious information to employees blaming the City Council for the temporary budget impasse. “He is not giving the union members the facts.”
Velez and other council members said they are willing to approve a temporary budget that covers payroll expenses.
“Despite our disdain for the budget, we should be approving payroll to pay our employees and essential services for our community,” said councilwoman Lilisa Mimms.
Some council members said the mayor made little effort to get a spending measure through after it was rejected last Tuesday. They said he did nothing until Friday, when he made a failed attempt to get the council to convene an emergency meeting on Monday.
“He didn’t care. He waited until Friday to tell the clerk to call the council to do a meeting. A responsible mayor would call the very next day, reaching out to us to say, ‘How can we move this forward? How can we agree? How can we meet halfway?’”
“He waited until the last minute to bully the council,” added Jackson.
The City Council typically convenes on Tuesdays, but the primary election pushed the meeting date to Thursday. Council members will consider the temporary budget during their meeting on Thursday. If the council approves the spending measure, the administration will run payroll the next day. Employees, who typically get their paychecks on Fridays, won’t get their direct deposits until Monday.