The City Council has no say in whether the mayor gives the new Schenectady finance commissioner a hiring bonus.
Mayor Gary McCarthy told the council Monday that it could not stop him from offering a $4,000 bonus to Deborah DeGenova, who was most recently an assistant director in the Bureau of Debt Management in the state Comptroller’s Office.
On Monday, she became Schenectady’s finance commissioner — presumably with a $4,000 check.
The council delayed a vote on the matter last week for lack of enough favorable votes. Councilman Vince Riggi said he planned to vote no, and with councilwomen Denise Brucker and Barbara Blanchard not present, the measure would have failed.
McCarthy hired DeGenova anyway.
“The role of the council is to determine the budget. I’m looking to live within the budget,” he told the council at its committee meeting Monday.
He said their only decision was whether to add the position of assistant finance commissioner. Information about DeGenova’s pay was simply offered for transparency, not for their approval, he said.
Council President Margaret King said she agreed with McCarthy’s view.
“It’s his prerogative to do hiring,” she said, adding that although he had also restructured the finance department to afford the hiring bonus and other changes, the total budgeted amount for the department had not increased.
“Money’s not being moved between departments,” he said.
But for some, there are big raises in the offing.
Councilman Carl Erikson noted that the mayor was also planning to promote two other employees, to handle finance, housing matters and oversee issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In essence, the fair housing coordinator is being promoted to oversee all housing matters, a position that requires passing a test. The housing coordinator is being promoted to assistant finance commissioner.
“A lot of this is his prerogative to shuffle people around,” Erikson said. “The only concern I have is there are several individuals getting significant pay jumps with this shuffling.”
He said that wasn’t fair.
“We’ve told the employees they can’t have raises,” he said.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo quickly objected to the word “raises.”
“Someone may be moving into another position that gets a higher salary. That’s not getting a raise,” she said. “These are different jobs and different duties.”
But Erikson said the employees had now been “shuffled” twice in a year, each time to positions with a higher salary.
“That is a significant increase most people wouldn’t see in getting a promotion or taking new responsibilities, especially in a tough economy,” he said.
McCarthy argued that moving his workers around was better than hiring new people to fill new positions. This way, he said, City Hall does more without adding staff.
And, he said, they would earn their money.
“I expect big things from some of these people,” he said. “We still have a 9 to 5 culture here in City Hall. Very rarely are the lights on at 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock. That, over time, will change.”
Erikson eventually dropped his objections, noting that McCarthy had managed to reorganize the budget without spending more than the council had previously approved.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t change the budget,” he said.