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Law department personnel move questioned

Some in city council want clarification on legislative aide

WARREN — An effort by the city’s law director to eliminate a lawyer’s position and replace it with a lower-cost legislative aide position is receiving pushback from two city council members who questioned the need for the change.

Council in a 7-2 vote failed to approve the legislation as an emergency measure, so it was placed in first reading.

The change would reduce the number of lawyers in the law office from six to five, while adding the legislative aide position.

Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa said he is eliminating an assistant law director position that has not been filled since he took office in January. Assistant law directors earn $64,259 per year, plus benefits.

Because the person hired for the newly created position would earn $25 per hour — or $52,000 per year — and would be part of one of the city’s bargaining units, council members Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, and Helen Rucker, D-7th Ward, each are asking for more details about what exactly the person hired would do and why this position is needed.

Rucker and MacPherson voted against the legislation as an emergency. Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, did not attend Wednesday’s council meeting. The other council members favored the change.

Cantalamessa said the new position would prepare nuisance abatement cases, digitize records and gather information needed to prepare legislation requested by council.

Rucker is questioning why the law department would hire a person not trained in the law to work on jobs that may require them to make legal recommendations either in nuisance abatement cases and to answer questions put to them by council.

MacPherson said, “I would like a full job description before we pass this. What are the educational requirements for the job? The law department never had a job position like this before.”

MacPherson questioned whether the number of nuisance complaints handled by the law department over the last several years requires this type of position.

MacPherson also has alleged the position would be filled by a political appointee. Cantalamessa, however, last week said he does not have anyone specific in mind for the position.

Councilman John Brown, D-at Large, said he supports Cantalamessa’s effort.

“Enzo promised me this is strictly business,” Brown said. “It will deal with housing problems and record retention. This is a commendable move to save money and do more with less.”

Brown, council’s finance director, said the law department is the only department that is spending less money in 2020 than it did in 2019.

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