New London - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio reiterated his stance Monday night that a second budget referendum would be illegal under the city charter and said the only way he'll change his mind is if a judge orders him to.
“Until the city receives a court order that says you have to do x or y, I'm going to follow the opinion of the law director,'' Finizio said during Monday's City Council meeting.
Last week, Finizio instructed the city clerk not to accept or certify any petitions calling for a referendum on the 2012-13 budget. He cited an opinion by Law Director Jeffery T. Londregan that said there cannot be another referendum because the city has already spent 25 percent of its budget.
Earlier in the week the council approved a revised general government budget of $41.3 million, representing a 5.1 percent tax increase. Finizio signed it Thursday.
But the mayor's directive sparked anger from some residents, including members of the group Looking Out for Taxpayers, who immediately started gathering signatures. They accused the mayor of trying to take away their right to petition the government.
"To borrow some words from Uncle Joe, Joe Biden, this is malarkey,'' Avner Gregory said, addressing the City Council. Last week's LOT meeting had to be moved to a larger room, he said.
"I think you are going to create some radical people,'' he added.
"We are doing a second petition,'' said former councilor William Cornish, a member of LOT. "We are going through the process and you don't tell us not to do it."
Some city councilors also weighed in, criticizing Finizio's decision. Councilor John Maynard picked up a clipboard from a LOT member during the meeting and signed the petition.
"Nobody, and I mean nobody ... should be told they can't sign a petition,'' he said. "They can't keep us in check."
Councilor Adam Sprecace said he was not signing the petition because he believes the budget is acceptable, but added he has no problem with others signing it.
"I understand their frustration,'' he said.
The council, not the mayor, he said, has discretion over whether or not a second referendum will go forward.
"The announcement that the petition was invalid before it got of the box was unnecessary,'' he said.