By Josh LaBella
In a meeting that ran more than three hours, Monday night, the City Council approved a new agreement for the 18 man Allingtown Fire Department contract. They also, however, took time in public session to continue their battle over vacation buybacks, termination payout, ethics forms and drug testing.
The tentative agreement between the city and the Allingtown West Haven Firefighters, IAFF Local 1198, AFL-CIO saw the firefighters getting no wage increase from 2017 to 2022. They also will pay more for insurance and have three less sick days a year.
Joseph DeGrand, the department’s union representative, said their union voted to approve the deal because they knew the financial situation of the city.
“I hope they all remember that at the next negotiation,” said DeGrand. “We really took a big hit. All we did was give. It was all give and no take. We went in there knowing that. We did what we thought was best for the city.”
Ironically, the council’s vote tallied to 9-1-1. Portia Bias from the7th District voted against it because she said it was not a good deal for the firefighters. Nicholas Ruickoldt of the 2nd District abstained, saying he was a member of a different union currently in contract negotiations with the city. Council members Hoskie and Forsyth were absent.
The mayor and many council members expressed their gratitude towards the Allingtown firefighters for what they were giving up. Chairman Ron Quagliani said they were losing money to protect the city.
“The service you provide to Allingtown is really first rate,” said Quagliani. “The service you provide to the University [of New Haven] community is first rate. I know you love what you do, because you’re still here.”
During public session, the council heard from citizens but then took the stand to air griefs with each other. Namely, Tracy Morrissey of the 8th District and Mayor Nancy Rossi continued their sparing match, which has been going on for several months. Morrissey said after months of fact finding she believes there has been a violation regarding vacation buybacks.
“Elected officials, in any administration, are not entitled to vacation buybacks,” said Morrissey. “I feel strongly that this needs to be repaid.”
Morrissey asked the council to figure out how to proceed. In addition she said she filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the records of all comp time for the last two and a half years for elected officials, appointed officials and all employees of the 1103 union.
Mayor Rossi went to the podium next. She handed out a spreadsheet listing city employee payouts at termination dating back to 2015. The payouts totaled over $1.38 million. The mayor said she had given the data to the city council weeks ago but it had been ignored.
“If we are going to shine a light we should shine a light on everyone, not just one person,” said Rossi. “And, unfortunately, all they’ve been doing is shining the light on me.”
Rossi said if the council wants to force people to pay back the city they should include their political allies. She said she had been trying to treat everyone at city hall fairly since she took office, adding that it was new to the building. She also stated that she has worked 500 extra hours without pay since taking office, and did not expect or want to be paid back for it.
“Instead of people applauding that and saying ‘Wow, she’s working for free.’ They would rather bash and trash,” said Rossi. “And I don’t think that’s a very fair thing to do.”
The mayor also said she wanted to see elected and appointed officials update their ethics forms and fulltime elected officials submit to a drug test.
After the mayor spoke, Debbie Collins, the current City Clerk who has formed an exploratory committee for the mayoral race, addressed the council and said she would gladly take a drug test.