UPDATED: City Council to Join School Committee in Giving Back Questionable Pay

Updated to include comments from City Council President John A. Michitson.

Following in the footsteps of school committee members, the Haverhill City Council is expected Tuesday to rescind its June 23, 2014 and June 24, 2014 votes, which gave them $2,400 each in additional “expense compensation.”

The order covers the current budget period, which began last July 1, and councilors will be forced to pay back extra amounts received. Behind the scenes is an issue where state ethics guidelines frown on elected officials voting for items that directly benefit themselves or family members. Council President John A. Michitson told WHAV they “believe that there was a mistake made” as the city solicitor notified them last month he was seeking a legal opinion “from an independent lawyer on that vote.”

“And it all comes down to whether or not the city council can increase or decrease its expenses and have it apply in the next fiscal year, before the next council takes office,” Michitson said. Michitson noted while there was “precedent” for the council to change reimbursement levels, there is “apparently conflicting policy” between state and local “conflict of interest” provisions in the city charter.

“The city charter has a similar statute that basically says that you can’t act on something that you’re going to gain from financially. However, the only way to increase the city council’s expense account or decrease it is for the mayor to put it in the budget and for the city council to vote on it. That’s the only way, according to the charter,” Michitson said.

Whether or not the present council rescinds its reimbursement increase, Michitson said, the full amount would still apply to the new council being sworn in next month.

“It’s still in effect for the next council. On the advice of the city solicitor, we’re taking the action to address that piece of it that may be in question,” Michitson said.

Michitson referred further details to City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr.

City councilors receive an annual salary of $8,000 plus expenses, for which they are not required to provide receipts. Prior to last year’s vote, each was allowed $2,484 in expenses per year. Councilors also voted last year to increase Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s salary, but the mayor did not put money in the budget to cover it.

2 thoughts on “UPDATED: City Council to Join School Committee in Giving Back Questionable Pay

  1. It seems there is a gap in the law where nobody really has the authority do vote either way on this. So maybe because of the current city charter, which has Haverhill as a “strong mayoral” form of Govt., the Mayor should take the lead on this and propose a fix to the problem. Since the council can only vote to ‘remove” money form the budget, it is up to the mayor to lead on this issue.