Updated, 2:25 p.m., explanation from Bruce Kimmel; 1:55 p.m., elaboration from John Igneri
NORWALK, Conn. – An agreement signed by former Mayor Richard Moccia on his last day in office was soundly rejected Tuesday night by the Common Council.
Council members unanimously rejected the tentative agreement allowing the city’s assistant corporation counsels to join the Norwalk Assistants and Supervisors Association (NASA) with terms and conditions of employment that include exempting them from being subject to review and reappointment at the end of each term. The only way to remove an assistant corporation counsel from the city payroll under the proposed agreement would be for “just cause,” and could be challenged.
The tentative agreement would currently apply to four positions, one of which is vacant. Those affected are Diane Beltz-Jacobson, Brian McCann and Carolyn M. Colangelo. The positions would be slotted at Grade 8 in the NASA contract and, as of July 1, would get a 2 percent raise and would get other raises negotiated for the classification in the following years. Currently, Ordinance List employee raises are decided on by the mayor, working within a framework set by the Common Council.
Moccia signed the tentative agreement on Nov. 18. Mayor Harry Rilling was sworn in on Nov. 19.
Minority Leader John Igneri (D-District E) and council member David Watts (D-District A) were careful to say they are not against unions.
“We fully respect the lawyers’ right to unionize,” Igneri said after the meeting. “This agreement was signed hours before Mayor Rilling took over. No one saw that agreement until the day before Thanksgiving.”
It didn’t go through the council’s Personnel Committee, he said.
“It was just executed; we don’t know what process was used,” he said. “There were just one or two paragraphs in there that we had questions about and we wanted to talk about. We didn’t have the time to do that so we voted to reject it. Hopefully we can go to renegotiate two paragraphs.”
He explained the issues in a Wednesday email:
• Paragraph 2 referred to having to show “just cause” if not reappointing a lawyer. “This is violation of the Charter which says appointments are the right of the council and/or the Mayor,” Igneri wrote.
• Paragraph 8 “tied the City’s hands on outsourcing legal work. This needed clarification since the City usually does outsource legal work given the size of the in house staff,” he wrote.
The motion to reject the agreement, made by Personnel Committee Chairman Glenn Iannaccone (R-At Large), initially got a nearly unanimous aye vote, but Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At large) asked to speak.
The city could not afford the agreement but would probably lose binding arbitration if it were rejected, he said.
Kimmel later explained that it’s his recollection that in this type of situation is that the rules for already signed agreements, which are then rejected by legislative bodies, are somewhat different from negotiating decisions.
Watts agreed the city would probably lose if it went to arbitration.
“I respect workers right to organize,” Watts said. “I may have a disagreement with the way this contract came about. … We should reject the contract for the way it was done.”
By that, he meant the personnel committee should have discussed it before Moccia signed it, he later explained.
He had a suggestion for the council.
“We should create an ordinance that says once the election is over mayors shouldn’t do this,” he said. “I’m not going to indict anyone, I just think the way it was done was wrong. I just feel like we should reject the contract and allow it to go to binding arbitration and allow these workers to get a good deal for themselves and a good deal for the city. Because right now I feel it’s not a good deal for the city.”