New Canaan’s highest-elected official is pushing back on an effort from fellow Board of Selectmen members to have the three-person body approve permanent part-time hires with the town.
According to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, “there really is no provision for [the Board] approving part-time employees” in the Town Charter.
“Generally full-time employees are added through the budget process, so if we want to talk about a revised policy or a new policy consistent with the Town Charter, we can do that, but as I said, you know, we have 200, 300 part-time employees in the course of the year and it really is impractical to have the Board of Selectmen review who the lifeguards are at the pool and the election workers and Town Clerk [workers],” Moynihan said during the selectmen’s Nov. 15 meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “I really don’t see the point. I approve them, but quite honestly I don’t pay a lot of attention to dozens of employees that we hire part-time.”
Yet according to Corbet and Williams, there’s a real distinction between one-off seasonal hires and part-time employees who remain employed by the town.
Noting that the selectmen had approved such permanent part-time employees in the past, Corbet said she wanted to talk not about individuals hired by the town but about positions.
“It has been our policy in the past to actually bring those forward before the Board of Selectmen for any permanent full-time and any permanent part-time positions, and so I don’t think we have to revise our process,” Corbet said. “I think we should to continue, if you want to codify it that certainly is fine, but I do think that we should go forward, and in fact i had asked for a list of those part-time positions that are permanent part-time positions that we have and to go back and say have we approved them as we do the full-time employees, and remain as part of our review and approval process by the Board of Selectmen.”
Yet Moynihan said he purposely withheld that list from Corbet.
“Kathleen, you know, I intentionally did not send you the list you asked for because of the conversation with the town attorney and our discussion we have to have if we want to have a policy change,” Moynihan said.
He referred to a memo supplied by a lawyer in the town attorney’s firm of Berchem Moses PC. Obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request, the Nov. 4 memo is from lawyer Nicholas Bamonte. In it, he said, “Kevin: I have found no authority in the Town’s Charter or Ordinances that expressly grants power to the BOS to approve the hiring of part-time or seasonal town employees whose payroll have already been approved in the Town budget.” (It wasn’t immediately clear how much taxpayer money will be spent on legal fees for the Bamonte memo—it’s been more than one decade since the town issued an RFP for legal services.)
When Moynihan said that “permanent part-time” is a misnomer “because technically all part-time employees are at-will employees,” Corbet noted that so are full-time employees.
When Moynihan said he didn’t know “what we think we are accomplishing” by having the Board publicly review and approve all permanent part-time hires, Williams said, “I think it’s just oversight, Kevin. That’s all.”
Moynihan replied, “But that is not the purpose of our Charter, to have oversight.”
When Corbet noted that the selectmen one year ago voted on the hiring of a part-time gardener at Waveny, Moynihan said, “I brought that forth as a PR matter. I wanted to show what we were doing to improve Waveny, not because it was required.”
This exchange followed:
Williams: You brought that forth as PR?
Williams: That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, PR in that form.
Moynihan: Well, again, what the Waveny Conservancy is doing at Waveny is outstanding.
Williams: I don’t think anybody disagrees with that, Kevin. I just think it’s interesting that you’re concerned about time with respect to the agenda and you bring in an item for our approval that is just PR.”
When Corbet asked whether permanent part-time positions receive benefits, Moynihan said, “We are not going to discuss individual cases here today, that is partly why I didn’t give you a list, Kathleen.”
In general, he said, “part-time employees do not have benefits but there are unique situations where we have because of the skill involved and the relationship with other parties that we negotiate benefits in lieu of salary. In lieu of compensation.”
Moynihan said that the Board of Selectmen’s responsibility under the Town Charter is for procurement, and that the Board approves all contracts of more than $10,000.
“I think we should increase that from $10,000 to $20,000, because we end up talking about a lot of items that are not a lot of controversy,” Moynihan said.
In response, Williams said, “It used to be $5,000, just for the record.”
Moynihan said he would speak further with the town attorney—it wasn’t clear if he was referring to Ira Bloom or Bamonte—as well as the town’s human resources director about “whether we should put forth a policy.”
“But right now I’m skeptical of the idea,” he said.
Though the selectmen had had a full discussion about approving permanent part-time hires at the previous meeting, the official “minutes” for that meeting included no mention of it. Corbet had those “minutes” amended to include the discussion.