Robinson Disputes Council Clerk Search Process

The search for a new clerk to the City Council is underway, but Councilor-At-Large Leo Robinson continues to state that he believes the search process violates the city charter.

At the April 25 council meeting, longtime clerk Paul Casino submitted a letter announcing he was retiring at the end of the year.

A second communication from Council President Roy Avellaneda established a subcommittee to help select a new council clerk. In addition to Avellaneda, Councilors Judith Garcia and Calvin Brown serve on the subcommittee. Robinson challenged the ruling of the president to establish the subcommittee stating the subcommittee violated the city charter.

The challenge failed by a 5-5-1 vote, with Councilors Giovanni Recupero, Todd Taylor, Enio Lopez, and Damali Vidot supporting Robinson’s challenge. District 8 Councilor Calvin Brown was absent.

Robinson has stated that the hiring process for the city council clerk violates Section 2-6 of the city charter under the subheading of City council staff.

The section reads in full, “The city council shall appoint a clerk to the city council and may employ such staff and retain such assistance as is necessary to conduct the business of the city council. The city council shall establish the compensation of such staff.”

Robinson has stated that the full council, according to the charter, should be hiring and appointing the clerk to the council.

Avellaneda has stated that the subcommittee will be assisting with the hiring and interviewing process, and submitting finalists to the full council, with the full council making the selection and appointment.

The first subcommittee meeting on the clerk selection was held on Monday, May 2.

“I stand by what I said about section 2.6, and feel it is a violation of the city charter,” said Robinson. “I will submit something asking for a legal opinion from the city solicitor because I feel as a councilor I shouldn’t have to go for an outside legal opinion.”

Robinson added that nowhere in the charter is there language allowing the council president to establish a subcommittee for the clerk hiring process.

“If we had a meeting of the full council allowing this and giving the president permission to set up a committee, that would be one thing, but that was not done and there was no input, he came up with the job description and selected the committee,” said Robinson.

Avellaneda said that following Robinson’s challenge, he gathered communications from the past three council presidents who established similar subcommittees for the city manager search process.

“One of those (letters) was from (Robinson), so it is ironic and ridiculous that he’s saying there aren’t the rules and powers to establish the subcommittee when he has done the same thing regarding the city manager,” said Avellaneda.  “I have repeated to everyone that in no way, shape, or form is the subcommittee choosing the clerk.”

The initial meeting began to establish criteria for the position and job description. Avellaneda said that discussion will continue at the next subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, May 17.

Following that, Avellaneda said the subcommittee will bring the job description to the full council for either approval or suggestions, with the intention of posting the position and getting the interview process underway.

Avellaneda said he was pleased Casino gave a long notice for his retirement.

“This is not going to be an easy position to fill, it’s going to require someone with a unique set of skills,” he said.

As for Robinson’s continued challenge to the subcommittee, Avellaneda said it is partly in response to what he said is the longtime councilor’s waning influence on the council.

“This is his way of acting out,” said Avellaneda. “At the end of the day, he is burning his bridges on the council.”

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