Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scold Then Fold

At last night's Common Council meeting, council member Thomas Serra admonished fellow council member James Streeto when Streeto introduced a motion to allow city staff directors to leave the meeting after a standing meeting segment called "Questions to directors."

Serra noted that directors might be needed at any time during the remainder of the meeting to answer questions on resolutions before the Council.

"And it must be said," Serra said. "That these are city employees who are paid for 40 hours but work 35."

The council voted to keep the directors at the meeting.

In fact, Serra's warning proved true when two city directors were called well after 11 pm, at the end of the long meeting, during a meeting segment titled "Questions to directors on non-agenda items."

However, as one of those directors was being questioned, Serra stood, put on his coat and left the meeting before it was adjourned. He was accompanied by several other Council members including Hope Kasper, Joe Bibisi, Grady Foster and James Streeto.

When council member David Bauer reminded Streeto that the meeting had not been adjourned, Streeto replied, "I know we're not adjourned, but I know what a late night is." He then left the Council chambers.

The director under question, Finance Director Karl Erlacher, was being asked by Councilman Vincent Loffredo about the affect of the impending departure of Aetna from their Middletown headquarters.

Erlacher said that there was not enough information to make a definitive statement, and that Aetna was still in negotiations with GE Capital. Under followup questions from Loffredo and Councilman David Bauer, Erlacher admitted that the city needed to take the impending departure seriously, and that plans should be made for a significant drop in the grand list when the departure occurs.


Anonymous said...

"And it must be said," Serra said. "That these are city employees who are paid for 40 hours but work 35."

Serra should be aware that this is in place so that employees stay until a job is finished!

Serra and other council members who left the meeting early are sending a message to Middletown that isn't worth an extra hour of his time to see that the job is finished! I wonder what was on tv that night that could not be missed?

James Streeto said...

Uh, for the record....

I did NOT withdraw my motion. It was voted upon and defeated. IF you don't believe me, check the council minutes. I believe a correction is in order here.

I've made this motion every meeting since elected. I simply can't see the point to having the directors sit there to 10 or 11 o'clock, on the off chance someone might have a question. I believe its incumbent upon the councilmen to think of their questions in a somewhat more timely fashion; and, to be frank folks, if a debate has gone that long, people's minds are pretty much made up. Tom and I disagree on this point; I'd suggest both positions are worthy of consideration.

As for leaving early.... Anonymous, I agree with you. I would point out (I presume you weren't watching at 1145 pm) that we WERE finished. The business portion of our meeting was over. FOLLOWING the business portion, some members of the council began directing questions to finance director Erlacher concerning Aetna's plans for closing its facility in Middletown.

This is a highly important topic for our community. Aetna is one of our city's largest taxpayers. But the closing will not be happening for approximately two years.

I question whether 1145 pm, at the conclusion of a 5 1/2 hour meeting, is a good time to bring up such an important topic. First, I would suggest that it is rather hard on Mr. Erlacher to expect him to have exact facts and figures at his disposal that close to midnight, on a topic not on the agenda (to his credit, he did a very good job). Second, and more importantly, midnight is not a good time for most people to discuss complicated data. Everyone is tired; everyone is cranky; mistakes get made. I'm not certain what information was elicited that could not have been elicted from Carl by a telephone call the next morning.

I would remind you that the questioning is NOT free. We pay to heat and light city hall, of course; but, in addition, ask yourself how much work we get out of a director who is exhausted by staying up until 1230 or 100 in the morning at a council meeting. And don't get me started on whether its a proper and respectful way to treat them.

Jim Streeto

Anonymous said...

Tom Serra does more behind the scenes work then all the council members and mayor together. The directors and city workers don't do there job during the week, so they should stay once a month for a meeting. These directors take coffee breaks with their wifes and go home for 2 hrs at a time. Don't comment on things when you don't know, and Streeto is a puppet, he likes to kiss up to people!

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

I reported the incident as I witnessed it.

The facts are correct.

If your allegations are correct, I challenge you to provide evidence to us without the veil of anonymity, and we'll check them out.