Westfield City Council rejects personnel director job description again

Oct. 21, 2020 | Dennis Hackett

WESTFIELD – During its Oct. 15 meeting, the Westfield City Council once again voted to send the personnel director job description back into committee until more changes are made.

After shooting down the current personnel director job description at the last two meetings, a no vote from Councilors Dave Flaherty and Kristen Mello once again voted it down. Because the item was for immediate consideration one no vote meant it would not pass.
Flaherty said that the description had not changed enough for him to agree to it.

“My concern is that it hasn’t changed as we asked. We had some specific concerns, and it hasn’t changed significantly since the last time we rejected it. We asked for experience with labor unions and municipal government. We’ve all seen some history in this department that we would like to change going forward,” he said.

While the Personnel Department can review the council’s recommendation, Council President Brent Bean said they did not have to follow the recommendations.

“Just because we ask for changes, doesn’t mean we get changes. I don’t see some of the changes I’d like to see on that so I would have hoped that we could have voted on this job description as is and moved forward. I’d like to see this be voted on as a full council and not an immediate consideration so one person can’t blow up the vote,” he said.

While she voted in favor of the job description, councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane said that one of her biggest issues with the job description was the inclusion of ableist language in it.

“If you’re following the Supreme Court hearings, there’s a discussion about a woman clerking for the Supreme Court and she’s blind. She’s brilliant and she wouldn’t be able to apply for this job. We’d be cutting out some people in a world where one out of every four adults have a disability, I think that ableist language is something we would like to rethink,” she said.

After Flaherty suggested to send the description to the Legislative and Ordinances subcommittee, Councilor Bill Onyski, who is also the subcommittee chair, agreed.

“If this needs to go to L and O, we’ll send it there, somebody has to do it. We’re pulling these rules out of our pocket all of a sudden, I mean I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before. Our goal is to get this done, so we have to cut the crap. I’ll second it to send it to L and O [Legislative and Ordinances Subcommittee] so let’s get this done,” he said.

Ultimately the council unanimously approved to send the job description to the Legislative and Ordinances Subcommittee for further review.

After approving the job description for the Department of Public Works Director, Councilor John Beltrandi took a moment to thank Councilor Cindy Harris for her work as the Personnel Action Committee chair.

“I’d like to thank the chair of PAC as well, for all the work she put into this. I know this has been trying for her, but I don’t want you to think your work does not go unappreciated,” he said.

After discussing both job descriptions, Councilor Ralph Figy said councilors with questions or comments about the description should contact the acting city solicitor and personnel director directly.

“As a former chair and current member of PAC, it’s frustrating when things keep bouncing back in and out of committee. I’m encouraging everyone who has suggestions on job descriptions, in particular, to reach out and make those comments to acting Personnel Director Rich Merchant and acting City Solicitor Shana Reed, they’re not mind readers,” he said.

The Westfield City Council next meets on Nov. 5.

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