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.
“This was another situation that the city is now having to deal with,” said Rizzo. “What 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.”
Rizzo said the City Council should not be learning from residents about issues that are happening at City Hall.
“That’s unbelievable. At bare minimum, the City Council should have been notified right away.” said Rizzo.
The water meter discussion at Monday’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.
“I do not have the specific date in front of me, but it’s not a matter of weeks or months, or anything like that – it would probably be a day or so,” said Viarella.
Giannino asked Viarella to obtain that information for the Council, saying, “it would be very helpful.”
“The Council should be included in any issues like this, but It’s more important that we get the Mayor’s Office before the Council, so we get the facts,” added Giannino.
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said he agreed with Rizzo’s request for an appearance by the mayor before the Council to discuss the matter.
“When things like this, of sensitive issue come up, it would be nice to have that information communicated more quickly,” 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 “on Facebook.”
“Probably about three days before I got the email from Mayor Arrigo,” said McKenna. “A couple of people called me and asked me, ‘What was going on?’ and I didn’t know and I couldn’t tell them.”
Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky said he was notified about the water meters, “and I encouraged the mayor to send out the email.”
“Our body [Council] should know and they’re entitled to know, being leaders of the city along with him,” said Novoselsky. “We 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.”
Novoselsky said that an employee has resigned and there is an ongoing investigation about how many meters were actually involved.”
Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Patch said he learned about the incident on Facebook. “People were calling me and there were all kinds of stories going on,” said Patch. “I waited for a statement from the Mayor’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.”
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers said when matters such as these arise, “the 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.”
Continuing the theme of a lack of communications between the Council and the Mayor’s Office on the water meter issue, Councillor George Rotondo said, “At the very simplest part of government, communications should be availed to this body. On many occasions, that is not the case.”
The Council affirmed Rizzo’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 Council’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: “It 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.”
The mayor went on to explain in the email that records tracing the distribution of these meters (used strictly for outdoor purposes) were “inaccurate or incomplete” and he had placed the water department employee on unpaid administrative leave.
“It’s never been the practice of any mayor to inform the Council of every personnel or administrative action,” added Arrigo. “I remember being on the Council and not having any of that information. I think it’s a little disingenuous when people say that they weren’t informed when we did inform the Council almost a week before a City Council meeting. We did inform them and it’s never been the practice of a mayor to inform the Council on every personnel action.”