Hartford City Council Divided Over Cutting Own Staff

As the City of Hartford deals with a budget crisis, one member of the City Council is calling for a reduction in the number of people who work for members of the council.

"I would not describe these aides as essential personnel to the City of Hartford," John Gale, a Democrat in his first term on the council, said.

Each member of the council is entitled to an aide who acts as a sort of administrative or executive assistant for all matters relating the member’s work on the council.

Those aides, according to city ordinance, can make as much as $50,000 in salary, and benefits are then matched at 50 percent, meaning each of those employees costs city taxpayers $75,000.

If all nine members of the council had aides, currently only seven are employed, they could cost the cash-strapped city $675,000.

Council President TJ Clarke, also a Democrat, says the staff are needed for basic tasks and shouldn’t be viewed as any kind of extravagant expense.

"The aides, they’re executive assistants and they are among the lowest paid assistants as City of Hartford employees," Clarke said during an interview Wednesday. "They are to work at the will of the councilperson and that includes nights and weekends as well, so they don’t work a standard 40 hour work week."

The city would need to repeal the existing ordinance to eliminate the positions, and Clarke said calls for a vote soon are 'premature.'

The one thing both Gale and Clarke agree on is that the overall structure of the City Council and the staff is long overdue for a restructuring.

Gale said he thinks that can start with eliminating those positions, saying, "Council does need some level of staffing but I don’t think we each need our staff member."

Clarke said members of the council need to have some level of support so they keep in touch with residents, and be responsive to concerns.

"We don’t have the extra resources that a mayor’s office or the General Assembly persons do when they’re trying to make a decision or they’re trying to get a communication out," Clarke said. 

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