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April 21, 2014

Rivera, council spar over nominee

City planner's hiring goes to council for a vote tomorrow


Her fate may rest with Councilor Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez. She did not return phone calls last week on how she would vote. But she opposed Isensee’s nomination to lead Public Works on the grounds that Rivera improperly handled it, which is the same allegation Rivera now faces with his city planner nominee.

Councilors Maldonado, Aquino and Sandy Almonte voted against Park in the Personnel Committee. Councilor Estela Reyes said she also will vote against her unless Rivera stops paying her the stipend. Rivera the stipend is justified because Park would do work beyond her job specifications, including helping to reorganize the city’s development departments.

Councilor Roger Twomey voted for Park in the Personnel Committee. Councilor Eileen Bernal said she also will support Park. Councilors Marc Laplante and Kendrys Vasquez said they are leaning toward voting for her.

As in debate over Isensee’s nomination, the specter of former Mayor Lantigua hovers over the debate around Park’s nomination.

“One hundred days ago, you were sitting on this side of the podium fighting very strongly against these kinds of things by the prior administration,” Councilor Sandy Almonte told Rivera at the Personnel Committee meeting last week, referring to the city salary Park began collecting before Rivera sent her nomination to the council. “There was a lot of chastising (when) the past administration did this. This was supposed to be a fresh beginning.”

Rivera and Personnel Director Frank Bonet reminded the council that the charter permits mayors to make temporary appointments and to negotiate stipends. They said Park was told in writing that her nomination would need council approval.

Bonet also noted that many of the department heads who served under Lantigua and former Mayor Michael Sullivan went on the city payroll before the two mayors sent the council their appointments. Among them, Sullivan’s Economic Development chief, Tom Schiavone, served for nearly eight years without a vote by the council, Bonet said.

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