Council rails against Grebien's extra hire, wants new rules

Council rails against Grebien's extra hire, wants new rules

PAWTUCKET - Members of the Pawtucket City Council last week again slammed Mayor Donald Grebien's hiring of a second liaison in the mayor's office without their approval or knowledge. Several called for new rules to prevent such actions in the future.

Council President David Moran took the lead in leveling a barrage of questions about the hiring of Dylan Zelazo as a second director of communications and constituent services. The City Council rejected Grebien's attempt to add a new economic development director position, said Moran, but the mayor decided to take matters into his own hands by hiring Zelazo to help with economic development duties.

Moran said Grebien's move delivered "a hit" to the "checks and balances" system in Pawtucket's government, a system that is now "sort of tilted" in favor of executive power instead of balanced between executive and legislative power. "We should have known about this ahead of time," said the council president.

City Solicitor Frank Milos said he believes Grebien's hiring of Zelazo was within the bounds of Pawtucket's charter. Going back to prior administrations, if a position has gone through the process of being created, such as a crossing guard or park attendant, a proposal to add personnel within that position does not have to go to the Personnel Board or City Council for approval, he said.

Milos noted that there are "financial considerations that I think go beyond the purview" of the legal opinion he offered to Grebien on the hiring of a second liaison.

Council members said they approved the creation of the first liaison position back in 2011, when first liaison Doug Hadden was hired, with the understanding that this was one position for one employee. No one, including Grebien, disputed that the council was only approving the hiring of Hadden, they said.

"He (Grebien) came to us for the first one, why not the second one?" asked Councilor Thomas Hodge.

Moran said that the Grebien administration's action will force the council to change the rules that Milos claims allowed the mayor to make the hire, said Moran. This isn't about getting rid of Zelazo but about preventing similar hirings in the future.

"I want to get the ordinance amended so this does not happen again," Moran told The Breeze, adding that he still hasn't received a clear explanation from the Grebien administration on the difference in duties between Zelazo and Hadden.

Alan Tavares, the City Council's consultant on fiscal matters, agreed with council members that when they approved the hiring of Hadden, the vote was for one person. The council has the "authority under the charter to limit the number of positions," said Tavares, and the process followed by Grebien skirted that authority.

Tony Pires, director of administration for Grebien, explained to the council that members of the administration felt "a compelling need" to advance economic development "and bring our city to a different level." When council members rejected the idea of a new director, they knew they needed a new strategy.

After consulting with Milos, said Pires, they decided that the best way to go was to hire Zelazo to handle many of the day-to-day administrative duties to free up Grebien and Pires for more of the economic development activities.

"We had no other choice," said Pires, given the council's refusal to fund the preferred position.

Moran hinted that the entire budget process has been thrown off by Grebien's unauthorized hire. How will the council be able to trust the mayor the next time he asks its members to approve a position?

Hodge said that the budget is a "very specific document" where line items are negotiated in "good faith," and adding Zelazo outside of that process calls into question the validity of the document.

Pires responded that the administration sees the budget more as a "working document" where money can be shifted throughout the fiscal year based on needs. Though the process used to hire Zelazo was not ideal, he said, it was necessary.

Comments

Don't worry Pawtucket we are in good hands with this City Council! They are looking out for you and would never abuse their power or allow the taxpayer to be taken advantage of. The Council deserves their $18000 per year health benefits. We should also give these noble elected public servants a pension for their decades of selfless leadership. Look where it has gotten us.