By Adam Swift
A dispute over the legal powers of the Acting Mayor led to the overturning of a veto by the City Council Monday night.
At the end of August, citing a legal opinion received by the firm of Anderson & Kreiger, LLP, the council voted that Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe “immediately cease and desist taking actions admitting of delay resulting in permanent appointments and hires.”
That legal opinion sought by the council determined that the acting mayor could not make appointments or hires unless it was an emergency situation.
In vetoing the motion, Keefe supplied the council with a legal opinion from City Solicitor Paul Capizzi.
In the opinion, Capizzi stated that it is the duty of the city solicitor to render professional services as required by the council. In April, the council requested that opinion from Capizzi relative to the powers and duties of the acting mayor.
“After appearing before the Council on April 24, I retained the services of Attorney Lauren Goldberg from KP Law to provide an opinion on the powers of an acting mayor,” Capizzi stated.
He continued that Goldberg’s opinion stands as his formal opinion to the city council.
“The Council procured their own attorney to provide a second opinion, and that opinion offered a slightly different conclusion,” stated Capizzi. “The Council, however, has no independent authority to overturn my opinion. The venue for the Council to challenge or overturn the Solicitor’s opinion is through the judiciary.”
Capizzi stated that the Anderson Kreiger opinion is for the council’s benefit only and has no bearing on the acting mayor’s office.
“The City Council is not possessed with any oversight role of human resources other than approval of certain appointments specifically articulated by statute or ordinance,” Capizzi stated. “Absent exclusive authority to participate in the appointment or hiring of certain positions, the Council’s functions are separate and apart from that of the Acting Mayor’s.”
Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro said he was concerned that the acting mayor was overturning a motion when the office hardly ever responds to the council’s motions.
“I’m going to be voting to overturn the veto tonight, and I hope the council will do the same,” said Cogliandro. “We all stood together and did this, and again, I’m not really sure why this is here in this form.”
Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto stated that the legal opinion offered by Anderson & Kreiger to the council had more solid legal standing.
“It’s really a moot point, but the fact that the acting mayor is vetoing this is beyond absurd,” said Zambuto.
Councillor-at-Large and mayoral candidate Dan Rizzo agreed that the point was basically moot, with the general election coming up in six weeks, but said he supported overturning the veto.
“Only appointments in case of emergency should have occurred, that was pretty clear, but yet that wasn’t the case,” said Rizzo. “I think that’s what was getting members of the city council upset, you can’t abuse your position.”
The council voted 9-0 to overturn the veto, with Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky absent for the observance of Yom Kippur.