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May 4, 2011

 

City hires part-time attorney

Common Council rejects full-time attorney position

By JEREMY HOUGHTALING
Staff Reporter
jhoughtaling@cortlandstandardnews.net

After a month of controversy over salary, the city Common Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to create a part-time assistant corporation counsel position after voting against having the position full time.
The job created Tuesday will pay Meira Hertzberg $1,250 per week for 25 hours of work for the remainder of the year — totaling $43,750, according to the resolution passed Tuesday.
The salary does not include the previous contracts Hertzberg had with the city for her legal services, which have totaled $17,500.
Hertzberg, who has been working for the city since December, was appointed to the part-time position by Corporation Counsel Patrick Perfetti and approved by Mayor Susan Feiszli.
Aldermen voted down a resolution last month to give Hertzberg a full-time job amid questions over how much she would be paid.
Since she is a contractual employee of the city, Hertzberg will not receive health benefits.
Aldermen Ken Dye (D-3rd Ward), Brian Tobin (D-4th Ward) and Tom Michales (R-8th Ward) voted against the proposal. Alderman Stephanie Hayes (D-2nd Ward) was absent.
Tobin said after talking with former corporation counsels, he thought having a full- or part-time assistant was not warranted.
“We have already invested a lot in the Law Department already,” Michales said, adding that he still would prefer to see a paralegal in the office to help Perfetti.
The council last night voted 5-2 against creating a full-time position, which would have had Hertzberg receiving about $1,350 for 35 hours of work per week — totaling about $47,115 for the remainder of 2011.
Dye and Alderman Carlos Ferrer (D-6th Ward) were the only two to vote for the proposal.
“My preference was clearly for the full-time (position),” Perfetti said, adding that he needed an assistant to clear the backlog of work that had accumulated in the office.
He said some of the city’s legal needs might need to be outsourced, since Hertzberg was not brought on full-time.
The council had voted to create a full-time position April 5, but voted to reconsider the resolution April 19, denying it so the salary for the position could be clarified.
Perfetti said after the meeting Hertzberg would receive $70,000 annually, with $30,000 coming from a budget line for zoning. Members of the council had conflicting views with what they had approved.
The resolution the council had originally passed did not include salary, length of term, benefits or other specifics, leading to confusion among city officials as to how much Hertzberg would be paid.
A resolution, other than what is on the agenda, is not in writing until it is in the meeting minutes. The minutes are given to the council at the following meeting.
Perfetti said Tuesday he did not mean to deceive the council, and thought all of the discussion in executive session had been clear.
The amended budget for the law department with the addition of Hertzberg is about $138,500. The budget also includes salaries for Perfetti and a confidential secretary, who also serves as the mayor’s secretary.
Hertzberg was originally Mayor Susan Feiszli’s appointment to replace Ron Walsh, after he was asked to resign as corporation counsel in December. The council asked whether the position had a city residency requirement, since Hertzberg lives in Ithaca.
The council agreed to hire Hertzberg to a two-month contract in December, at $5,000 each month, which was extended for an additional two months.

 

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