Charter Violations by City Council Force 2021-2022 Budget Veto
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Alexandria, La. (April 28, 2021) — Offering further insight into his decision to veto the amended 2021-2022 city budget adopted April 20 by the Alexandria City Council, Mayor Jeff Hall said he was required to veto the budget due to it being unbalanced and some of the amendments made violate the Alexandria Home Rule Charter.
“I understand residents are eager to see our police officers get a pay increase – I’m eager to do that as well. I’ve been working to increase police pay as well as compensation for all city employees since I took office,” Hall said. “But it has to be done correctly, using a sustainable funding source, which is what we proposed in our initial budget. Our police officers and all city employees are now having to wait longer to get the pay increase they deserve because I am required to ensure that the actions we take are in compliance with the terms of the Home Rule Charter. The amended budget adopted by the City Council violates the Home Rule Charter.”
In his veto letter to the City Council, Hall said two specific amendments to the proposed budget violate Charter provisions – the way the additional allocation for police pay and benefits was made and the elimination of funding for the Public Safety Commissioner position.
Although Hall advocates for a pay increase, since the city is currently in negotiations with the police union to craft a new contract, the allocation also violates Section 7-04(B) by interfering with negotiations between the city and the police union. “By creating a $2 million fund, the City Council is essentially telling the union what they are willing to spend on a salary increase,” Hall said. “That significantly interferes with our ability to conduct negotiations.”
Specifically, Section 7-04(B) of the Alexandria Home Rule Charter requires “[a]ny negotiation by the city with any such employee union shall be by the mayor designate.”
Regarding adding funds to further increase police pay, Hall said that is a priority but the funds have to be properly accounted for per the guidelines in the Charter. Hall specifically cited Sec. 5-04 of the Alexandria Home Rule Charter, which provides, in part, “[n]o payment shall be made or obligation incurred against any allotment or appropriation except in accordance with appropriations duly made and unless the mayor or his designee first certifies that there is a sufficient unencumbered balance in such allotment or appropriation and that sufficient funds therefrom are or will be available to cover the claim or meet the obligation when it becomes due and payable.”
That section further notes, “[a]ny authorization of payment or incurring of obligation in violation of the provisions of this charter shall be void and any payment so made illegal ...”
Under Hall’s proposed budget, the city would complete a professional pay study and then perform the required funding analysis for future financial obligations of the City related to pay increases before amending the budget to provide the needed funding, thereby fulfilling the Charter requirements.
In regard to the $2 million budget amendment adopted by the City Council, calculated in part based on use of an estimated $1.7 million in non-recurring funds, there were no studies conducted and no funding analyses prepared in relation to meeting the continuing obligation for future budget years. Therefore, neither the mayor or his designee were able to provide the certification as required by Sec. 5-04 of the Home Rule Charter.
Regarding the City Council’s decision to eliminate funding for the position of Public Safety Commissioner, in his veto letter Hall calls the decision an improper manner of dictating the removal of a City administrative officer or employee, in violation of Sec. 2-07(B) of the Home Rule Charter.
Sec. 2-07(B) of the Home Rule Charter provides, “[n]either the council or any of its members shall in any manner dictate the appointment or removal of any city administrative officers or employees whom the mayor or any of his subordinates are empowered to appoint, except as provided elsewhere in this charter.”
“The Charter is very clear – the Council may not ‘in any manner dictate’ the removal of any city administrative officers,” Hall said. “If you remove the funding for a position, you’re dictating the removal of that employee.”
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