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City looks to reorganize law department

Council unsure if eliminating lawyer position is right move

WARREN — Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa wants to reorganize the law department.

The change would eliminate a lawyer’s position and establish a new legislative aide, who will assist the city in digitizing its records and prepare the legislative requests made by council members.

Cantalamessa emphasized that the assistant law director position being eliminated has not been filled since he was elected as the law director.

“Currently, this office has five lawyers, including myself,” he explained. “There is myself, the law director; the deputy law director; and three assistant law directors.”

But a fourth assistant law director position has been unfilled. Assistant law directors earn $64,259 per year, plus benefits.

Under the department’s new configuration, the legislative aide will earn $25 per hour or $52,000 per year, plus benefits.

The legislative aide will do much of the research needed for council requests, revamp city records, digitize the city’s bidding process, do the paperwork needed for code enforcement, and other jobs.

Cantalamessa argues the city does not need a lawyer to handle many of these functions.

“We will be saving the city approximately $12,000 a year,” Cantalamessa said.

Couuncilman Ken MacPherson questions whether someone not trained in the law should be doing the research on issues that deal with current and future regulations made in the city.

Cantalamessa said he does not have a specific person in mind for the position. But he would prefer to the council to approve the reorganization of his office as soon as possible.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, said she is surprised that a law director would want to give up a lawyer’s position.

“I’m concerned because council relies on the expertise of lawyers in the department to advise as council as a whole and as individual council members,” Rucker said. “The city has utilized every lawyer we’ve had. We don’t have lawyers just sitting around. We’ve had ample work for all the lawyers in the law department.”

“This could hamper the work of council, of the law department, as well as the administration,” Rucker said. “We should not take this recommendation lightly or rush into it.”

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