Council Approves Hiring Freeze, With Republicans Opposing

The City Council has approved a hiring freeze on all city positions except for public safety and temporary seasonal parks and recreation positions. All five Council Republicans in attendance voted against the hiring freeze.

The resolution was approved, with nine votes in favor and five in opposition.

With the exception of police, fire, emergency dispatch and seasonal temporary parks and recreation positions, the resolution resolves that, “Common Council of the City of New Britain impose an immediate hiring freeze and promotion freeze on all positions in the City,” adding that, “no personnel position that becomes vacant shall be replaced, except with the prior approval of the Common Council.”

Ald. Carlo Carlozzi, Jr. (D-5), the City Council Majority Leader, said that the immediate reason why the resolution was proposed was that, at a special Civil Service Commission on April 18th, a request was made to certify new hiring in five city jobs. He also cited new positions in the budget proposed by Republican Mayor Erin Stewart on April 11th.

Carlozzi discussed a $400,000 cut Stewart proposed in her budget plan in the Fire Department budget and a $226,000 cut from police patrols, and said that he questioned a decision to, “put money into hiring these new people, but yet take away from public safety.”

“I have a real issue with that,” Carlozzi said.

Ald. Don Naples (R-4), opposed the resolution, saying that, “I think the proper place to have this discussion is when we talk about the budget.”

City Corporation Counsel Gennaro Bizzarro, an appointee of Stewart, said that the hiring freeze resolution would, “interfere with the mayor’s authority to make hiring decisions,” and argued that Stewart is not bound to obey it.

The City Charter says that the Council has the power, “to enact Ordinances in the manner provided in this Charter not inconsistent with law, or this Charter, for the government of the City and the management of its business, for the preservation of good order, peace and health, for the welfare and safety of its inhabitants and the protection and security of their property. It is authorized and empowered, by Ordinance or resolution, to regulate, amplify and define the corporate powers.”

While it was not clear from the Council debate if Stewart planned to veto or contravene the resolution, Carlozzi appealed to the mayor to implement the hiring freeze.

“This was not a surprise, your honor.” Carlozzi said, adding that, on March 17th, he told Stewart that the city needed a hiring freeze and that he planned on putting it into a resolution.

March 17th was the day of a meeting in which Stewart and Council leaders negotiated about Stewart’s plans to borrow $115 million to push city debt into the future.

But Stewart replied that, “I don’t recall that conversation.”

Ald. Carlo Carlozzi, Jr. Frank Gerratana photo.

Carlozzi argued in support of the hiring freeze in light of the property tax increases proposed in Stewart’s budget. Stewart’s proposal has been criticized for increasing property taxes despite her claim of “no tax increase”, as well as for freezing the city’s annual education allocation and continuing to rely on increased city debt to balance the annual budget.

Carlozzi said, of Stewart’s budget plan, that, “the majority of people – they’re taxes are going up. It is a tax increase.”

Voting in favor of the resolution were, Carlozzi, Ald. Eva Magnuszewski (D-AL), Ald. Emmanuel Sanchez (D-AL), Ald. Richard Reyes (D-AL), Ald. Brian Keith Albert (D-2), Ald. Aram Ayalon (D-3), Ald. Katie Breslin (D-AL), Ald. Iris Sanchez (D-3) and Ald. Francisco Santiago (D-5).

Voting in opposition to the hiring freeze were Ald. Robert Smedley (R-4), Ald. Jamie Giantonio (R-1), Naples, Ald. Wilfredo Pabon (R-1) and Ald. Daniel Salerno (R-AL).

Ald. Kristian Rosado (R-2) was absent due to an illness.