It doesn’t appear hiring a lawyer for the two minority Troy Council members is dead yet.
Councilman Jim Gordon, R-District 1, said he and Councilman Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, will discuss the matter with Mayor Lou Rosamilia in an effort to find the $15,000 necessary to pay attorney Kelly Cramer.
There was some confusion at the first Council meeting earlier this month as to how to pay the salary. It is, after all, the first time the minority opted to take advantage of a section of the Charter that was changed to allow the hire in 2009. But, it’s also the first time members of the minority were given committees to chair so the need for an attorney to draw up legislation is there, Gordon said.
While the Times Union indicated the matter never came up for a vote, it said President Rodney Wiltshire did not have the majority five votes necessary to allocate the money. Two members – Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, and Gary Galuski, D- District 6 - asked where the money would come from. A legitimate question, it appears nobody really had the answer to.
I don’t see how Rosamilia can do anything but find the money somewhere since the position is in the Charter so the minority will likely get its counsel. But, since there was not a line item allocating the salary in this year’s budget, the mayor will have to find the money and then ask the Council to formally transfer it. The amount, according to the Charter, is the same as the majority counsel, $15,000, who is now Joe Liccardi.
I’ve gone back and forth on the need for the minority attorney since I first heard it discussed back in the 90s when Republican Carmella Mantello was the vocal opposition. On the one hand, the minority should have legal expertise in the spirit of a true two-party system. On the other, the corporation counsel is supposed to work for the entire Council so, in a perfect world, the minority has access to that office. It’s hardly ever a perfect world, however, and the corporation counsel is hired by the mayor and knows who to thank for a paycheck.
While it was nothing more than a discussion for years, by a local law that largely flew under the radar then President Clement “Chappy” Campana, a Democrat, successfully steered through an amendment to the charter allowing the appointment in 2009. It was vetoed by then Republican Mayor Harry Tutunjian, and the Council eventually overrode. Tutunjian and Campana, in an odd spirit of bipartisanship since they’ve never had that great of a relationship, both spoke against the hire and/or procedure at the meeting earlier this month.
The fact the salary was questioned, however legitimate, is another indication of the divide between the majority caucus. Whiltshire (pictured above) should have known about the transfer of funds but there is a learning curve with any new president. I also suppose the Council could have just OKed the salary and put the onus on Rosamilia to find the money and then formally transfer it later but that didn’t happen. While it wasn’t all out animosity, it was a sign that people of both parties are going to be watching every move Wiltshire makes.