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City of Oneida to vote on veto of changing qualifications for city manager

CITY OF ONEIDA (WSYR-TV) — Some neighbors in the City of Oneida are on edge after they say some common council members met behind closed doors, voting to replace the current interim city manager, with a less qualified person to hold the job.

Many neighbors plan to voice their concerns at Tuesday’s common council meeting.

Tension is building up in the city of Oneida ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

“I think there will be many city residents who are concerned about how some members of the common council have conducted themselves, and the apparent effort by those members basically to overturn the referendum,” said Peter Hedglon, former mayor of the city of Oneida and current lawyer.

That referendum gained enough votes last November, approving and adopting a new position of city manager and the qualifications they must meet. But that vote is now being taken away.

“63% of the people in Oneida voted for a qualified city manager and now three months later we’re now, some people are now trying to take away those qualifications. To be honest, our city planner has to have a master’s degree, our city engineer has to have a bachelor’s degree, and our comptroller has to have a bachelor’s degree. But they want to put somebody as their boss who has to have no qualifications and is making more money than them. Again, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Rick Rossi, mayor of the City of Oneida.

The new position has only been in effect since the beginning of the year, with the current interim city manager being Douglas Selby.

“It’s honestly quite sad. Our city manager is probably the most qualified person we were ever going to get. He was the city manager of Las Vegas, he was the city manager of Auburn, and there’s a park named after him in Las Vegas. I don’t understand the reasoning really behind the council’s decision,” said Rossi.

Four council members have already voted and approved the decision to change the current qualifications of the city manager position at the last common council meeting. However, the mayor did not approve it.

“I then, in turn, did my mayor’s veto and now that’s what we’re voting on tonight. Tonight is the veto of it where I only need two-thirds of the council to pass that,” said Rossi.

Some neighbors also say common council members met behind closed doors, without public knowledge, voting to replace the current interim city manager with the city’s director of codes enforcement, Bob Burnett, who they say is less qualified.

“I can’t confirm they met because I wasn’t there. I honestly don’t know how they circulated that. I received a text message after the fact stating that they were doing that and they were sending that just to let me know but I didn’t know about any meeting or anything they were doing to bring this to light” said Rossi.

That member, Steve Laureti. Laureti denied the accusations when asked about meeting behind closed doors in a statement sent to NewsChannel 9:

“The narrative being spread is by individuals that have personal agendas. None of this is being done behind closed doors. It is all on tonight’s agenda, and there is a public hearing on it.

We have a few issues that are being addressed. The current Interim City Manager is a relative of Republican Committee members. In an effort to avoid any accusations of nepotism, the position was supposed to be on a temporary interim basis until we found a full time candidate.

The Council received 13 applicants, with 3 having the experience we were interested in. One interviewed, one canceled, and one never called back. We are trying to expand our candidate pool by favoring education or experience, which is a common HR practice today.

In the interim, the Council is proposing to name the Director of Codes as Acting Manager while we search for a full time City Manager. This appointment, would create no reduction in priority services the city provides (Police, Fire, Water, Sewer, DPW).

With the attention this is receiving, we encourage anyone interested to apply for the City Manager position.”

Thank you,

Steve Laureti

“I will fight this to the end. I do believe it’s in the best interest of the city of Oneida,” said Rossi.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. inside the auditorium at Oneida High School.

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