Councilor Fred Capone invited Mayor Carlo DeMaria to the Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, to answer questions regarding the results of the departmental evaluations conducted by the temporary Organizational Assessment Department – and also to update Council on the search for a permanent library director.
Mayor DeMaria did not appear.
The Organizational Assessment Department was created in the wake of what was revealed to be a gross mishandling of City funds, and was meant to thoroughly evaluate all City departments to expose any signs of corruption or nepotism and to make recommendations on how they could run more efficiently. After being active for a year, the department merged with the Human Resources department, which took over the role of departmental evaluations. The former director of the department, Omar Easy, has now transitioned to the School Department and is working with the new career academy.
Councilor Capone wanted the Mayor – or someone from his office – to provide an update, but instead he received a response from the City’s Director of Human Resources, Lara Ammouri.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio read her response, which stated that “Departmental evaluations include personnel information” and that “the City Council is not authorized to review personnel documentation.”
Councilor Capone argued that he was not seeking specific personnel information that resulted from the departmental evaluations, but rather an overview of the broader recommendations.
“The request was that the Mayor share department evaluations and the response came from [Human Resources],” he said. “I’m not looking for personnel files or reviews. The idea of Organizational Assessment was to enhance efficiency. That’s what I’m looking for. What was done to enhance efficiency in that timeframe?”
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kevin O’Donnell and City Solicitor Colleen Mejia, who were already present to address other agenda items, attempted to respond to the Councilor’s inquiries.
“Every single department and department head was evaluated and recommendations were made,” said Mejia.
Recommendations including merging or eliminating positions, adding or reducing job duties, training personnel, and improving employee relations through mediation and round-table discussions. They also highlighted educating City workers about the Employee Assistance Program and improving the flow of communication between departments.
O’Donnell said that it was hard to say what percentage of the recommendations had been implemented but that they were being implemented over time.
Councilor John Hanlon expressed his disappointment in the City’s response, saying that he had expected more specific recommendations, such as the number of fire trucks that the Fire Department needs, for example.
Regarding the search for a permanent library director, O’Donnell said that the Mayor aims to “move as quickly as possible,” but a communication from Human Resources said that the position has not been posted yet, despite being vacant for almost half a year.
It is being temporarily filled by Assistant City Solicitor Matt Lattanzi.
“The outgoing director has been gone for four months,” said Councilor Capone. “The problem is you can’t put together a long-term plan unless you have a [permanent] director. A library is too important an asset to leave in a state of limbo.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin expressed frustration at the Mayor’s absence, both from the meeting and the conversation.
“The mayor was asked to speak. He blatantly won’t come to discuss anything with us,” he said. “Do we not have the right for him to come? Mayors Ragucci and Hanlon came to meetings when requested.”