Bid for more New London charter change gets rejected

New London — Just six months into the biggest change in city government in 90 years, some members of the City Council were looking to make more changes to the document that sets out how the municipality is run.

The council’s Administration Committee recommended Monday the creation of a charter revision commission but could not muster enough support at the council level to make it happen.

Councilor John Maynard, chairman of the Administration Committee, proposed empowering a panel of seven to look into the charter to address “areas of confusion and disagreement.’’

“I think if we clean up the language we can stop head-butting,’’ argued Maynard, who did not support the mayor form of government when it was first proposed more than five years ago. “It has nothing to do with egos.”

But since Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio became mayor last December — the first elected mayor in 90 years — he and the council have been in a power struggle. There has been constant friction between the two sides, with each accusing the other of playing politics and not communicating.

The latest disagreement is over the city finances.

The council approved an $83 million budget and most councilors believed it would cover the cost of doing business without any layoffs.

But the mayor, who had proposed an $87 million budget, announced he was handing out layoff notices to 25 firefighters and 10 police officers to keep within the budget. Ten other employees in other departments also received layoff notices and seven others are retiring. The City Council also cut funding for five other positions, including the assistant city clerk and the new assistant police chief.

Finizio has yet to either approve the council’s budget or veto it.

Five of the seven members of the council needed to vote in favor of charter revision and only four were in favor: Council President Michael Passero and Councilors Maynard, Adam Sprecace and Marie Friess-McSparran.

Councilors Wade Hyslop and Anthony Nolan were opposed. Councilor Donald Macrino did not attend the meeting.

“I think this is premature,’’ Nolan said of creating a commission. “We’re not even a year into (the new form of government). We haven’t given ourselves or the administration a chance to settle in.’’

Once the charter is open for review, any changes can be presented to the council and voters for approval, including returning to the city manager form of government.

“It’s early in the process ... I would like to give this charter a little longer,’’ Passero said. “But I’m concerned in this political climate there’s too much going on.”

Sprecace said the charter commission could address archaic language that is still in the 91-year-old document and clarify some more recent issues, like defining the word contract. The commission could also specifying duties of the new mayor that are now ambiguous, like the mayor’s power to dismiss the law director and hire and fire nearly all city employees.

“I know its soon after making significant changes,” he said. “But I think there are additional changes that need to be made.”

But Hyslop said the council and mayor need to learn how to work together.

“I think we can clarify everything by sitting down and talking,’’ he said.

In November 2010, voters approved charter changes which eliminated the city manager form of government in favor of a four-year elected mayor.


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