Peaceful end to heated Campbell council conflict
By Graig Graziosi
After an afternoon of tense arguments concerning Campbell City Council’s power over street department employees, council members and Mayor Nick Phillips came to an agreement during Wednesday’s council meeting.
The argument began over an ordinance put up for a vote that would fix the number of workers in the street department. The section of the law allowing council to reduce the size of the department and order layoffs, if needed, upset Phillips, who saw that as a way to undermine his authority and potentially force him into a situation where council could force him to furlough the entire department.
During council’s caucus before the meeting, the lawmakers reassured Phillips that their intention wasn’t to induce any layoffs, but rather to ensure that they could control any new hiring in the department, which is operating at a $37,000 deficit.
Law Director Brian Macala noted council already had the power stated in the ordinance, prompting Council President George Levendis to offer to remove the section completely from the ordinance, to which Phillips agreed.
With the issue settled, there was a lingering fear from street department foreman Gary Bednarick that council might try to shrink the department or replace his full-time workers with part-timers.
Bednarick said he was prepared to resign his position should that happen, as he believes operating the department with only himself as a full-time employee could result in dangerous winter conditions for his workers and city residents.
Levendis reassured Bednarick, saying that while council couldn’t immediately replace any workers due to the city’s general fund containing only $77,000, they would not leave the department in a situation where workers or residents would be at risk.
The ordinance ultimately passed, after which Phillips, Levendis and 2nd Ward Councilman Bryan Tedesco apologized to one another and the public for their communication breakdown and subsequent argument.