City hall access limited for Arnold mayor, police chief
Arnold Council, after some debate, has hammered out a policy regarding officials’ and employees’ access to city hall offices.
The measure that council approved unanimously on Tuesday, however, doesn’t allow Mayor Karen Peconi and police Chief Eric Doutt access to all offices and files. That initially was part of the resolution that Peconi asked city solicitor David Regoli to draw up.
Councilmen Phil McKinley and Anthony Sgalio and city Treasurer Joseph Puet questioned the initial draft.
Puet said allowing the mayor and police chief access to his office and the files it contains would pose a problem regarding internal controls. He said access now is restricted to himself and the office staff who handle the files and payments made at the office.
“I believe that will present a substantial deficiency on our internal controls,” Puet said. “I believe the auditors will see that and it will result in a finding of deficiency against us.”
Peconi said after reading the draft resolution, she realized it could create a problem and asked Regoli to change it to exclude her and Doutt from having access to Puet’s office and files and to those of Controller Toni Montemurro.
McKinley and Sgalio both questioned why Peconi would need access to all the files, including personnel files that contain confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, protected by law.
“I am entitled to see anyone’s personnel file,” Peconi said. “If I have a personnel problem, I need to have access to deal with those problems.”
Sgalio said, “I don’t know why you need a key to all the files when there are people here eight hours a day who can let you in whenever you need to.”
Peconi said she did not want access to confidential financial and personnel files, only to files that relate to an employee’s work record if a situation develops.
Later, she also said she wanted to have access to files related to business the city does or has done with companies and individuals.
“I’m in a lot of times at night, and I needed stuff and I couldn’t get it,” she said. “I’m just trying to conduct business.”
In addition, she said she wanted access to city Manager George Hayfield’s office, for the purpose of holding meetings for which her own office doesn’t provide space.
Peconi said the only key she was given when she became mayor was to her office. Although she oversees the police department, she said she does not have a key to the police offices, nor did she want one.
Finally, Peconi and council agreed to give her and Doutt key access to city hall, along with the city hall staff, council and the police department’s evidence officer. Peconi will be able to access all offices, with the exception of Puet’s and Montemurro’s.
Regoli said access to all the files will be removed from the final measure he will submit to Peconi for her signature.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.