Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo has asked that Mayor Brian Arrigo appear before the City Council to discuss missing or unaccounted water meters for potentially 120 homes in the city.
â€œThis was another situation that the city is now having to deal with,â€ said Rizzo. â€œWhat troubles me the most about this is that I had residents calling me and asking me about an employee of the city, who I was told, was escorted off the property and placed on unpaid administrative leave because of a problem with meters and serial numbers not matching.â€
Rizzo said the City Council should not be learning from residents about issues that are happening at City Hall.
â€œThatâ€™s unbelievable. At bare minimum, the City Council should have been notified right away.â€ said Rizzo.
The water meter discussion at Mondayâ€™s Council meeting evolved into an internal city government communications issue for other councillors, who said that they only learned about the water meter issue through rumors, on Facebook, and on the Internet, before they were officially notified in an email from Mayor Arrigo.
Council President Jessica Giannino asked Human Resources Director John Viarella to confirm the date that an employee in the Water Department was placed on administrative leave in response to the water meter matter.
â€œI do not have the specific date in front of me, but itâ€™s not a matter of weeks or months, or anything like that â€“ it would probably be a day or so,â€ said Viarella.
Giannino asked Viarella to obtain that information for the Council, saying, â€œit would be very helpful.â€
â€œThe Council should be included in any issues like this, but Itâ€™s more important that we get the Mayorâ€™s Office before the Council, so we get the facts,â€ added Giannino.
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said he agreed with Rizzoâ€™s request for an appearance by the mayor before the Council to discuss the matter.
â€œWhen things like this, of sensitive issue come up, it would be nice to have that information communicated more quickly,â€ said Keefe, noting that he had heard rumors about the matter.
Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna said she first read about the missing water meters â€œon Facebook.â€
â€œProbably about three days before I got the email from Mayor Arrigo,â€ said McKenna. â€œA couple of people called me and asked me, â€˜What was going on?â€™ and I didnâ€™t know and I couldnâ€™t tell them.â€
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said he was notified about the water meters, â€œand I encouraged the mayor to send out the email.â€
â€œOur body [Council] should know and theyâ€™re entitled to know, being leaders of the city along with him,â€ said Novoselsky. â€œWe have to realize that these meters were the outdoor waters, not the regular water meters that are in our houses. These are special meters that people use for outdoor water use, washing their cars, filling their pools, and then they get a credit at the end of the year for not having to go through the sewage system.â€
Novoselsky said that an employee has resigned and there is an ongoing investigation about how many meters were actually involved.â€
Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Patch said he learned about the incident on Facebook. â€œPeople were calling me and there were all kinds of stories going on,â€ said Patch. â€œI waited for a statement from the Mayorâ€™s Office and none came. I spoke to Bob Marra and he explained the story. He was very good. I just think we should be informed about something as important as this matter and given the details.â€
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers said when matters such as these arise, â€œthe mayor should call for a meeting with the City Council behind closed doors and explain the situation and keep us apprised of everything that is going on.â€
Continuing the theme of a lack of communications between the Council and the Mayorâ€™s Office on the water meter issue, Councillor George Rotondo said, â€œAt the very simplest part of government, communications should be availed to this body. On many occasions, that is not the case.â€
The Council affirmed Rizzoâ€™s request to have the mayor appear before the Council to discuss the issue.
Mayor Arrigo, who not present at the Council meeting, responded to the Councilâ€™s criticism of his notification actions about the water meter issue. Arrigo provided a copy of the email he sent to the councillors on Sept. 11, six days before the Council meeting.
Arrigo stated in the email: â€œIt is not my practice, nor is it an advisable personnel practice, to report on every administrative personnel/human resource issue that arises in the course of city business. Personnel matters are sensitive and frequently confidential.â€
The mayor went on to explain in the email that records tracing the distribution of these meters (used strictly for outdoor purposes) were â€œinaccurate or incompleteâ€ and he had placed the water department employee on unpaid administrative leave.
â€œItâ€™s never been the practice of any mayor to inform the Council of every personnel or administrative action,â€ added Arrigo. â€œI remember being on the Council and not having any of that information. I think itâ€™s a little disingenuous when people say that they werenâ€™t informed when we did inform the Council almost a week before a City Council meeting. We did inform them and itâ€™s never been the practice of a mayor to inform the Council on every personnel action.â€