Removed from the roles of the committee, the municipal councilor of Schenectady is considering an appeal
SCHENECTADY – A city councilor said she was considering her recourse options after the president of the city council relieved her of her post on two committees this week.
At a committee meeting on Monday, it was revealed that Council Chairman John Mootooveren had dismissed Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas as President of Planning and Development and as a member of the Committee on finances.
In an interview following the meeting, Zalewski-Wildzunas denounced the measures as “arbitrary”, and said that it had the effect of blocking an important financial post in the city.
She said her friends suggested she file a lawsuit, or even call for a vote of no confidence in Mootooveren. Zalewski-Wildzunas said she is considering both options and their ramifications.
Mootooveren chose City Councilor Marion Porterfield to replace Zalewski-Wildzunas in both roles.
Mootooveren said on Wednesday he had taken action in response to two vacant city council positions that had not been filled for several months.
“We are not able to fill the vacancies because three members of the city council are opposed to it,” he said. “So I have no choice but to realign the nine committees we have and balance them.”
Balance, Mootooveren said, is about minority representation on every committee. Porterfield is the only black member of the board, while Mootooveren is Guyanese.
“It is not an easy task,” he said. ” We are five. There are nine committees. I’ve done my best to align myself and make sure it’s balanced across the board in terms of committee demographics.
Mootooveren went on to say that he was committed to a fair balance between all committees that included the two minority members.
If the council had nominated the two candidates that the city’s Democratic committee approved in February to fill the two vacancies, it would have been easier to spread the assignments, rather than “putting so many committees out of so many people”. did he declare.
Mootooveren insisted that avoiding a Democratic primary in June was not part of his thinking.
The city’s Democratic committee approved Haileab Samuel and Carl Williams to fill the two vacancies in February.
But the board is divided over whether the seats should be filled immediately, with the candidates approved, or whether Samuel and Williams should compete with other challengers in a June primary.
Zalewski-Wildzunas, with the support of council majority leader John Polimeni and city councilor Carmel Patrick, prefers voters to decide the fate of the two open seats.
“We need to have some transparency,” Zalewski-Wildzunas said, when contacted after the meeting. “We need to have an open electoral process. I am very supportive of all those the Democratic Party wants to support. But I still think we have to have an electoral process. It is the heart of our democracy.
“And, yes, if it was necessary to appoint people, I would say yes, we have to do it,” she continued. “But things have been going well since the end of resignations in January. Suddenly, it becomes an issue, a few months before the primary. “
Whether Mootooveren has the power to make such unilateral changes to committees remains open to interpretation.
On Monday, city lawyer Andrew Koldin gave his opinion that the city code allows the chairman of the council to appoint council members to vacant seats on standing committees and to appoint the chairman of each committee. However, the president cannot remove a seated member of a standing committee, Koldin’s note read.
Mootooveren said the code did not clearly prohibit the chairman of the board from making changes to committees.
Zalewski-Wildzunas, a commercial real estate broker who is treasurer of the Metroplex County Board of Directors, said she is well suited for both committee roles due to her more than 30 years of experience in the banking industry. She said she led commercial loan teams.
As president of planning and development, she said she helped the city verify its $ 1 million sale of dilapidated city-owned properties last year. As part of that process, she said, she helped ensure the city had the income to maintain the properties before the sale.
Of Mootooveren, she said: “My biggest concern is that this was an arbitrary decision which made no sense to me. I don’t know why you would remove from the finance committee someone who is financially trained, who has real estate training. I thought we would all be put in committees where we have our strengths. “
The reconfigured finance committee delayed city affairs when Commissioner Anthony Ferrari on Monday requested a bond anticipation order, in order to secure a favorable interest rate on deadlocked investment projects, 2 -2.
Subsequently, a special meeting of the finance committee to review the bond was called on Friday.
Meanwhile, Mootooveren said he expected his decisions to step back.
“It’s unfortunate that some people have taken it to the next level and think it’s political and all these different things,” he said. “For me, it’s like that. We have to go forward ”with the shorthanded panel.
“The next chairman of the board will take over and that person will do what he has to do,” he suggested, adding that in his eight years on the board, he has never experienced so many positions. vacant.