Briefings: Overriding Objections of a Veto…
SPRINGFIELD—Determined to revive the city’s moribund residency ordinance, a Council committee announced it would ask for a vote Monday to override Mayor Domenic Sarno’s veto of an ordinance designed to limit the use of waivers to city employee residency requirements. Other actions will appear on the agenda later this year said the Chairman of the Council’s Special Committee on Residency, Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton.
At the meeting, Fenton, joined only by at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh who does not serve on the committee, laid out his plans for the immediate future and the rest of the year. Human Resources Director Bill Mahoney and Chief Administrative and Financial Officer T.J. Plante represented the administration.
The ordinance passed with nine votes on July 15, sufficient to override Sarno’s veto. Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna was absent that day, but may lean toward overriding. Even at-large Councilors Jimmy Ferrera and Bud Williams and Ward 5 Councilor Clodo Concepcion may reconsider their no votes in light of election year pressures. The override vote has been added to a special meeting scheduled immediately before the Council’s regularly scheduled permits hearing on Monday.
The veto is believed to be Sarno’s first since becoming mayor and therefore, if the override were successful it would then be the body’s first such action since the implementation of ward representation.
Were the Council unable to override, which is possible if councilors are swayed by City Solicitor Ed Pikula’s clever, but possibly mistaken opinion, Fenton said his committee would return to the drawing board. If they did override, he outlined Sarno’s likely responses. He could enforce the ordinance, refuse to enforce it or sue the City Council to strike it. The last option, Fenton described as the least likely.
Although Sarno does not face reelection this year, not enforcing the ordinance could damage his political capital with litigation dragging into the next municipal election. However, since Pikula’s opinion seemed written to suggest declining enforcement is in the city‘s interest, such an action by Sarno is at least plausible. In that case, Fenton said he would pursue legal action and urge the Council to sue the mayor to enforce the ordinance.
The other measure was a change to obviate the need for waivers for non-residents who nevertheless agree to move into the city after they begin employment. Mahoney explained that the change would automatically give applicants offered a job a year to move into the city instead of requiring a waiver from the outset. If an individual offered a job declined to agree to move, they would have to seek a waiver.
Both Fenton and Walsh agreed this change was fair and Fenton said he would recommend that the Council pass first step on the ordinance change Monday.
Fenton, Mahoney and Walsh also engaged in a discussion about how waivers should work for existing resident employees who then seek a waiver. Mahoney said he was concerned employees who seek to move out of the city due to a life event may shirk the ordinance or alternatively create conditions that could impact morale.
Both Fenton and Walsh were leery of opening up another exception in this area, but agreed that the subject merited a solution. Mahoney made clear he only wanted the matter discussed and was not raising it as an obstacle to any existing proposals.
Fenton closed the meeting by outlining his intention to revisit a bonus structure to reward employees that have complied with the ordinance in good faith and possibly punish, if indirectly those that have flaunted it. Other proposals on the docket will include stronger enforcement mechanisms and efforts to remove waivers from the ordinance in collective bargaining agreements.