Mayor asks council to take focus off Zelazo hire

Mayor asks council to take focus off Zelazo hire

Moran: We're here to be watchdogs

PAWTUCKET - Mayor Donald Grebien, frustrated with repeated questions from the Pawtucket City Council about his hiring Dylan Zelazo as a second director of communications and constituent services without their permission, is pleading with members to focus on other things.

He respects the role of the council, especially having served on it for 11 years, said Grebien, but his time as mayor has given him "a fuller understanding of both the administrative and legislative roles" of city government.

"It is in that light that I must say that my administration has acted with full transparency throughout this hiring process," he wrote in an Oct. 16 letter to the council. "No matter how many times, or in how many different ways, the same question is asked. The simple fact of the matter is that this hire was done in full conformance with all applicable rules and regulations."

The intent of his letter is simple, said Grebien, to "truly focus on our respective roles and responsibilities for the better future of our city."

City Council President David Moran said he sees Grebien's letter as a call for the council and mayor to focus on their respective roles, something he will be more than happy to do.

"One of our roles is to be a 'watchdog' for the taxpayers of this city and we are a part of the checks and balances system," said Moran.

Is the council right to still be asking questions about the Zelazo hire? Tell us at www.valleybreeze.com .

Grebien's response to the council on why he was allowed to hire Zelazo was accompanied by nine more pages of support for the hire and a job description for the position, said Moran. But none of the information provided answered the question he and others on the council asked on Oct. 9.

"We want to know the present specific job duties for both Dylan and Doug (Hadden) and then compare them to the official job description," he said. "We as the council have a right to know as well as the residents/taxpayers of Pawtucket what both these people's duties are since a second person was hired for approximately $53,000 without council approval, whether the council agrees with that or not."

Moran said he will be asking for the information again at Wednesday night's council meeting. If he still doesn't get an answer, he'll be forced to call another pre-council session, said Moran.

Grebien responded Monday that Moran is asking the impossible when it comes to specific job duties outside of the job description. Zelazo and Hadden have "the same job description and the same responsibilities," said Grebien. All other duties, whether one is completing a task one day and the other is completing it the next, fall under daily administrative operations and cannot be spelled out because they are always changing.

"They're being petty as far as I'm concerned," said Grebien.

The mayor said he was forced to add a second liaison in his office based on the council's rejection of his attempt to add an economic development position. The move was deemed appropriate by Solicitor Frank Milos.

As for Moran's statement about the council being a "watchdog" group, he finds it "upsetting" given what he sees as Moran's past comments that the council president, as Grebien puts it, was planning to "turn his back on the administration" and "micromanage" it.

Moran was quoted in January as saying that the council would be taking a closer look at every Grebien move after the mayor tried to appoint former Councilor Chris O'Neill to the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.

"We're going to be even more analytical, maybe you want to call it micromanaging," said Moran then.

Moran said Monday that he's only talked about the council turning its back on the mayor as a possibility if the mayor continually fails to get members the information they ask for.

In his letter to the council, Grebien shares what he sees as some of his administration's achievements, including bringing the city back "from the verge of bankruptcy" and the prospect of a state takeover, holding the line on taxes, bringing in new businesses and jobs, eliminating municipal jobs, and building an "overall perception that Pawtucket has begun to move in the right direction."

"Continued forward progress" depends on working together, said Grebien, and it depends on "sound leadership and making tough but needed decisions." As "Washington has clearly shown us," said Grebien, "polarization that comes from a short-sighted legislative process deprives its citizens of the government they expect and deserve."

Grebien takes some shots at the council, saying he "sincerely" hopes its members "can respect and appreciate why this hiring decision was made, as I have done when the council decided not to eliminate the Blue Cross for the members of its part-time legislative body and not to restructure the salaries for board and commission members, or denied the administration's request to establish a charter review commission to allow residents to be part of the governmental process."

"Let me be clear: I did not agree with those decisions; however, I recognize that it was within the council's authority to make them," he wrote.

The council has "every right to ask questions," Grebien told The Breeze. "But when they ask a question and it's been answered," it's time to leave the issue alone.

"I'm doing everything by the book, and at the end of the day I want them to start looking at the bigger picture, not getting hung up on micromanaging, if that's what they're hung up on," he said.

If Moran and others have such issues with him, said Grebien, "let's move on and take this up in the next election cycle where I'll be more than happy to defend my record."

Comments

As a citizen of the City of Pawtucket, I watch the Council meetings, I have attending Council meetings and I read the newspapers. In reading this article, I was thinking.. Didn't the Mayor run his campaign on "being transparent?" I don't see a lot of transparency going on. I am a retired person, I visit coffee shops, speak with residents, firemen, policemen, etc. While you don't hear about this in the papers, people are not happy out there about how this administration is being run. I believe that the City Council is doing the right thing by questioning the Administration, asking the questions they are asking, they are doing this for their constituents and the residents of this City. That is why they are there. To protect the residents, the taxpayers. It's unfortunate that they are not always getting the answers for US.. the residents of Pawtucket. I voted for the Mayor, he has done some good things for the City, but I do question things now. We as taxpayers should know what is happening with new hires, economic development, who does what in each position. We are the ones who pay the bills and salaries for this city. I wouldn't say the Council President or the council in general are acting like "watchdogs" or "micromanaging" they are simply doing their jobs as we have elected them to do. They are taxpayers also and have the right to know what is going on. I have heard that the person that I have voted for is now sitting in meetings with his department heads and is criticizing and laughing at the council for what they are doing and asking for. While I feel the Administration and the City Council are working together to better this City, the Administration needs to respect the City Council's concerns that they have for us VOTERS.

Moran will be a "watchdog" when is serves him well. He doesn't like Grebien because the city employees don't like the cuts he's made and Moran knows the city employees are the biggest voting block in Pawtucket. What has Moran done in his abundance of years on the council to reduce Pawtucket's high property tax rate and high excise tax rate? How good were his watchdog skills when the previous administration was hiring companies with no bid contracts? Did the watchdog try and prevent the taxpayers from having to pay the council council's health benefits? Moran is a lapdog for the city employees. He's glad the majority of Pawtucket's citizens don't vote or care enough about how their tax money is spent. If they did then the people would demand he be a watchdog.
But I do think it is good to question the Mayor's appointment of Zelazo. If he is worth the $53,000 and the city has a need of his position than fine, it is money well spent. But I do question the need for the position, let alone needing council approval.