An ordinance that would require the city’s administration to alert the Warwick City Council about the firing or hiring of all city department heads within 24 hours that was unanimously passed by the council was, in turn, vetoed by Mayor Scott Avedisian as what he viewed to be a breach of the council’s powers.
“Notice shall be given to all members of the City Council within twenty four (24) hours of when a Department Director, Department Deputy Director, acting Director, acting Deputy Director, Division Chief or other person in charge of a City agency or Authority separates from the service of the City, whether said separation occurs by retirement, resignation or other type of termination of service,” the ordinance reads. “Notice shall also be given to all members of the City Council within twenty-four hours of when a person is appointed or contracted to serve in any of the above positions.”
The ordinance passed its second reading unanimously and without discussion from any on the council during their meeting last Monday on March 5.
On March 8, Mayor Avedisian sent a letter to the council explaining that he was vetoing the ordinance, as he felt the mandate was above and beyond the city council’s power as the legislative body of the city.
“My objections to each of the ordinance amendments is based on my assertion that this action by the City Council exceeds its authority as set forth in the Warwick Charter and the Code of Ordinances whereby the City Council has no authority to direct and/or intrude into the executive or administrative branch of Warwick’s government,” Avedisian stated in the letter. “All administrative and executive authority in the city’s government is reserved in the office of the Mayor.”
Avedisian said in his letter that he found the demand to be “unrealistic and unduly burdensome,” and gave an example of a city department head being hired or let go on a Saturday, which would require city staff to work on Sunday in order to alert the council to fulfill the notification requirement.
“Respectfully, I urge the City council not to override this veto,” the letter continued. “This ordinance amendment unreasonably and unnecessarily intrudes into and interferes with the role and duties of the Mayor.”
Council president Joseph Solomon said on Monday that the catalyst for the ordinance was when the council went to perform abatements in early January only to find out that tax assessor Christopher Celeste had resigned following a dispute prior to Christmas – a development that the council was not made privy to.
“I think whether it be the city council or the general public, when you have to deal with a department or a department head, if you pick up the phone you expect to speak to that department head or an acting head,” Solomon said. “To find out they’re no longer there, it's a surprise.”
While Solomon didn’t comment on whether or not the council would override the veto or not – as that would be a decision for the whole council to decide – he said he would be open to an amendment that would address the mayor’s concerns regarding the possibility of city staff having to work on the weekend, he stood by the merits of the ordinance.
“I know my opinion is that I think the legislation is good legislation,” he said. “I am open to an amendment for a reasonable timeframe.”