After a two-week long impasse over spending with mayor Andre Sayegh, the City Council on Tuesday evening approved a temporary budget, allowing employees to get their paychecks on time.
Council members voted 7-0 in approving the $21.23 million — $1.7 million less than what Sayegh sought last week – temporary budget that covers expenditures for June.
“This should have been done weeks ago,” said councilman Al Abdelaziz in the emergency meeting.
Council members and the mayor spent the past two weeks spinning their own alternative narratives and blaming each other.
Sayegh sent a memorandum to employees telling them their paychecks will be delayed if the City Council does not act.
Several council members said the mayor disseminated bad information to employees to place the blame on the City Council.
“For me it’s not about politics,” said councilwoman Lilisa Mimms. “Employees should never be in the chokehold.”
Both Mimms and Abdelaziz supported the temporary spending measure last week. Council president Flavio Rivera did not. He has said Sayegh has been “reckless” in his spending of public money.
Rivera wanted Sayegh to scrap an unnecessary $120,000 finance job the mayor’s team created. He said line items were adjusted in the temporary budget to reduce funding and ensure there isn’t enough money for Sayegh to create the costly position.
Council members Michael Jackson, Luis Velez, and Alex Mendez also changed their votes. Mendez said he was satisfied with the reduction to block the creation of the $120,000 job.
Jackson proposed amending the spending measure to exclude funding payroll for the mayor’s office, city council members, and the business administrator’s office.
Velez asked whether such an action would be legal.
“It’s not legal,” said law director Aymen Aboushi.
“We can’t pick and choose who we pay. We have to pay everyone,” said councilwoman Ruby Cotton.
Velez, Mendez, and Jackson wondered why Sayegh was a no-show at the emergency meeting.
Jackson said it was “very disrespectful” for the mayor not to appear at the emergency meeting.
“I was expecting to see the mayor in that seat,” said Mendez. “That’s what a leader would do.”
But the last time Sayegh was in that seat, he ended up alienating four council members by his aggressive words that led to the council rejecting the temporary spending measure for the second time.
Sayegh’s presence at the emergency meeting would likely have worsened the situation.
Council members Shahin Khalique and Maritza Davila were absent.