Residents ‘boo’ as Ogdensburg enacts hiring freeze

Ogdensburg's hiring freeze
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 6:07 AM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - A vote by the Ogdensburg city council to freeze hiring Thursday night drew a chorus of “boos” from members of the public and criticism from two councillors who voted against it.

Residents voiced their frustration at the special city council meeting.

A resolution brought by Mayor Mike Skelly brought a hiring freeze to Ogdensburg. It was passed 4 to 2. Councillor Dan Skamperle was not at the meeting.

The resolution also prevents new city manager Mohideen Buharie from proposing, creating, or filling any personnel positions during the rest of the fiscal year.

It comes after a surprise move last week by Buharie to add two city firefighters.

He told councillors it can help relations with the fire department and cut overtime costs for the city.

Councillor Mike Powers called the hiring freeze a “knee-jerk” reaction to Buharie’s decision to hire the firefighters.

“It’s government by fiat, plain and simple,” he said. “You’ve lost your ability to control, and that’s basically where it is, and I will not support this.”

Councillor Nichole Kennedy called the freeze a “joke” and a “mockery” of the city manager’s department.

“We have some major things that need to be addressed,” she said, “and our city manager needs to be able to accomplish his tasks that are outlined in the charter.”

Both questioned how the city will go forward with summer recreation, like hiring lifeguards.

As he was leaving the meeting, Skelly told 7 News that’s a non-issue. He says four lifeguards and other pool personnel are already included in the budget.

Buharie says he’ll continue to work in the city’s best interest despite what he calls a setback.

“I will have to discuss this much further,” he said, “because having to be not able to discuss or propose or change, basically ties my hands.”

Skelly and councillors Steven Fisher, William Dillabough, and John Rishe did not speak about the freeze during the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Rishe told 7 News he feels the hiring freeze is a way to stop spending given the city’s budget deficit for next year is more than $2 million. He said beyond the cost, he isn’t sure Buharie had the authority to do what he did.