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Attendance policy continues to be a City Council issue

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Visconti: ‘We do not need to police ourselves’

  The battle over City Council attendance continued at Monday night’s meeting. Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo presented a motion that some councillors claimed was a retaliatory strike against a motion made last month seeking to dock the pay of councillors who don’t show up to meetings. In May, Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro and Councillor-at-Large Marc Silvestri presented a motion seeking to cut councillors’ pay by some percentage if they are absent from a meeting without a good excuse. Rizzo, who took exception to that motion in May, presented his own motion on Monday night requesting the City Council consider overhauling its pay structure and handing out a flat $100 fee for each meeting councillors attend.

  “I think at the last meeting I had stated that we don’t work for each other – we get elected by the voters,” said Rizzo, “so if the sole mission here is to compensate councillors by the meetings they attend and not the job they do with phone calls they return … personally, I think this is a slippery slope. In all the years that I’ve sat on the council, I have not heard a councillor indirectly go after other councillors for their attendance; that’s insane to me.”

  Rizzo said the councillors put themselves before the voters every two years, and that the voters should be given enough credit to determine who is doing their job and who is not.

  Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe sought to take a middle ground in the conversation, stating he understood where Rizzo was coming from in making his motion, as well as the frustrations voiced by Cogliandro and Silvestri in making their original motion. “I think we are probably going down a slippery slope when we start this fining each other and what not,” said Keefe. “This is probably not the role we should be playing for each other.”

  Keefe noted that the attendance by city councillors overall was subpar for the beginning of the calendar year, which led to a certain amount of frustration by some on the council, but said he would like to see the council police itself without retaliatory motions or docking pay. “I certainly think that we as professionals, as respectful individuals – and we do respect each other – to start doing this tit-for-tat motions… I would think that we could be men and women about it and just self-manage,” said Keefe.

  Rizzo said his was not a tit-for-tat motion, but an effort to create transparency and start a discussion on attendance and pay issues.

  Silvestri said his original motion was not aimed at any particular person on the council. “We don’t make millions of dollars up here – that’s a fact – we probably don’t get paid enough,” said Silvestri. “But we put ourselves on the ballot and we get elected by the people and we should show up here every chance we get.”

  Cogliandro said he agrees that the original motion was not an indirect attack on anyone, but a measure aimed at making the council as a whole more accountable.

  “We are not employees of the city; we are elected officials … the voters are the ones who put us here,” said Rizzo. “It is not up to you to count absences and who is not here and why you don’t have a quorum.”

  City Council President Gerry Visconti said the motion would be put into the Legislative Affairs Subcommittee, and he added that he hopes the council could get down to more important business. “We are elected by the residents of the city, and we do not police ourselves,” said Visconti. “It is not the council president’s job to call the Treasurer’s Office and say I’m going to deduct someone $50 because he did not attend a meeting and calculate it out.”

  Visconti also noted that the job of a councillor extends well outside the City Council Chambers in dealing with constituent issues. “I think we should work rather than nitpicking each other,” Visconti said. “I think we should work collaboratively and get some work done that has to be done in the city.”

Marc Silvestri

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