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Paralegal raise called into question Tuesday

Frank Beach, Ned Divine and over 50 other people showed up to Dunkirk City Hall to protest peacefully the arguing that took place at the last Common Council meeting. Several individuals milled around holding signs supporting Mayor Wilfred Rosas and citing the need for respect at these government meetings.

The creation of the confidential management paralegal position in the city of Dunkirk brimmed with contention Tuesday at Dunkirk’s Common Council meeting.

“Our potential huge deficit of over $1 million is a concern,” Fiscal Affairs Officer Marsha Beach stated. “I know that since our Finance Committee meeting, I’ve been doing some analysis and I sat down with the mayor and Mark (Woods, city treasurer) and I are going to sit down and talk, it’s really getting kind of scary.”

Beach feels that with the looming deficit due to the coronavirus that spending any money in any form not budgeted for beforehand is going to deal a negative blow to the city.

“Our taxpayer dollars are so precious right now with everything that’s going on.”

“I just really implore you to think twice about every single dollar because we are looking at possibly having to borrow for our deficit,” Beach said.

Woods backed Beach’s comments.

City Attorney Richard Morrisroe was a bit concerned as well, citing that while his paralegal assistant is deserving in his opinion, the law office was never brought in on the discussion until everything had been sorted.

“It was unsolicited,” Morrisroe said. “While she’s certainly deserving of the raise, given the current COVID-19 crisis, I told her to keep that in mind.”

Mayor Wilfred Rosas is dead set against this move by the council for a number of reasons not limited to the negative city budget.

“I am totally against this, again not because of the individual in question, but the fact that this council has met, discussed this, without including the city treasurer, the city fiscal affairs officer or the city mayor, is in my opinion wrong,” Rosas added. “To give a $7,500 raise to an individual here today is something that should be discussed at a Finance Committee meeting. It impacts our budget. Not only will it impact it this year, but also by placing her into the union she will then be entitled to an annual salary increase with the union contract that she’ll be going into.”

Rosas also shared strong feelings against the position being a potential confliction of interest.

“This position here will be involved in learning and having very sensitive and confidential information as we negotiate contracts with different unions, including the one that this individual will be a part of,” Rosas said.

Rosas finished by saying that by passing this resolution the council will do a disservice to the community; he plans to veto it.

On the other side of the fence is First Ward Councilman Don Williams, who brought up Development Director Rebecca Wurster’s raise which was ratified during the COVID-19 crisis and how he found this raise to be no different.

“During COVID-19 we also gave a raise to the development director and there was no concern about a budget then, so I think that giving this person a raise from what she was put at in 2017 and what she’s earned is still what she was put in at in 2017,” Williams stated. “I believe that this is the right and fair thing to do with an employee of the city of Dunkirk. I don’t see an issue with this, the money is there.”

Williams went on to point out that the money to pay for the paralegal’s raise would be coming from the saved salaries of Dave Campola and Vicki Westling, whose positions were eliminated in January.

The resolution passed unanimously.

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