Ansonia Aldermen Jan. 13 gave 2 percent raises to 30 nonunion employees, most of whom hadn’t gotten pay bumps in years.
But two Aldermen voted no to the raises because the list included several political appointees who have only been on the job since Mayor David Cassetti took office in late 2013.
The Aldermen’s salary committee voted unanimously last month to recommend the raises to the full Board of Aldermen.
Seventh Ward Republican David Blackwell Jr., the chairman of the salary committee, characterized the increases as a “cost of living” raise during the Aldermen’s meeting Jan. 13.
He said money for the increases was included in the city’s 2014-2015 budget, but the raises themselves were never implemented.
“I believe it’s been at least five years, to my knowledge, that these people have worked for the city and not received any raise, while their counterparts that they work side-by-side with, being union members, have received probably an average of 2 percent, give or take, a year,” Blackwell said. “I think it’s fair that they get paid for the work they’ve been doing for the City of Ansonia.”
But Joan Radin, a Republican who represents the Fifth Ward, said that while those who have toiled for years without a raise deserve a bump, several people were on the list who have been on the job less than a year.
Article continues after document detailing the pay increases.
The list includes five positions currently held by people appointed by Mayor David Cassetti soon after taking office in late 2013:
- Zoning Enforcement/Anti-Blight Officer David Blackwell Sr., who got a $920.25 raise;
- Public Works Superintendent Douglas Novak, who got a $1,427.92 raise;
- Grant Writer/Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley, who got a $1,700 raise;
- Chief Administrative Aide Christopher Tymniak, who got a $1,440 raise;
- And Administrative Aide Anna Andretta, who got a $626.34 raise.
“I don’t understand how you’re saying they all haven’t had a raise in five years,” Radin said. “They’ve only been here a year.”
“I’m not talking each individual, I’m talking collectively about non-union employees,” Blackwell said.
“Well I’m talking as individuals because they’re on the list of non-union employees, and you’re talking about quite significant amounts,” Radin said. “I just don’t think that those names should be on there, I’m sorry. I don’t think anybody that works a year deserves to get a 2 percent raise when they’ve just started their jobs.”
Later, Radin said she’d be fine with the raises if those names were taken off the list, but felt giving raises to the political appointees would give the wrong impression to members of the public struggling to get by.
“I do believe that the crossing guards and all these other people deserve to get a raise because they’ve been here for all these years,” she said. “But I’ve never heard of people going on a job at the salaries that these are and getting a raise (after a year). This is my feeling, I’m sorry, maybe I disagree with you people, but I’m out in the public every day and see people come into my store and I see how they don’t have the money.”
Radin owns a pharmacy on Wakelee Avenue.
Matthew Edo, a Republican who represents the Sixth Ward, said he understood Radin’s concerns, but that the appointees in question have done a good job.
“The hard work over the last year from the chief administrative aide and our grant writer, that’s small, minor numbers for what they’re doing, especially when it comes to lowering taxes,” Edo said. “I would be glad to give them that raise.”
Lorie Vaccaro, a Republican who represents the Second Ward, pointed out the raises in question totaled only $8,000.
However, several of the raises were to hourly rates of pay, and the numbers presented didn’t include the actual yearly wages paid to the employees in question.
Even so, Charles Stowe, a First Ward Republican, said $8,000 wasn’t an insignificant chunk of change.
“I’d like Mr. Vaccaro to have to go pony up that eight grand out of his personal account,” Stowe said.
The Aldermen then voted 11-2 to approve the raises, with Radin and Stowe voting no.
First Ward Democrat Edward Adamowski abstained from the vote because he’s an assistant chief in the city’s fire department and got a $61 increase to a stipend for that position, to bring it to $3,111 annually.
Blackwell did not abstain from the vote, even though the list of included a $920.25 raise for his dad.
Nobody raised the potential conflict of interest during the Aldermen’s discussion of the raises, but Corporation Counsel John Marini said Friday (Jan. 16) that Blackwell should have abstained from the vote.
“I would recommend that, as a matter of good practice, that a member abstain from votes that impact the finances of their immediate family members,” Marini said.
The city’s ethics ordinance also says board members shouldn’t vote on matters which could impact their family members.
Blackwell said in an email Friday that he was unaware of that rule.
“I can assure you that I will look into the city code and if it overrules the board’s adopted rules of operation, I will most certainly refrain from any further votes which include the aforementioned parties,” Blackwell said.
The Jan. 16 vote is still valid, Marini said.
Stowe said he voted no because he agreed with Radin.
He also thinks the timing of the raises makes for bad political optics.
“We’re getting ready to go into the 2015-2016 budget and I really wanted our budget to be out for the public to see it before we instituted those raises,” Stowe said. “If we showed that we were helping the taxpayers you could justify the 2 percent increase.”
But not for the handful of Cassetti’s appointees, he said.
“I don’t believe those five individuals should have gotten a raise this year,” Stowe said. “I think they could’ve waited another year to get an increase.”