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New London Announces It Will Withdraw From SCCOG

City says it cannot pay its dues to the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments and will have to withdraw.

Wednesday morning at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments' regular meeting, SCCOG Executive Director Jim Butler read a letter by New London Mayor Daryl Finizio saying that New London can’t pay its dues this year and will withdraw from the group.

“The (SCCOG) hasn’t dealt with this situation in 30 or 40 years, I believe,” Butler said. “I think it is a terrible precedent should it happen.”

New London owes $15,191 for its annual SCCOG fee, which is 10 percent of the total the 20 SCCOG municipalities give, and that loss will be a “big hit” to the group’s budget, Butler said. Meanwhile, SCCOG has secured millions of dollars for infrastructure projects in the past few years for New London, he said.

“I hope we can meet with the mayor and maybe the city council as soon as possible,” Butler said. “Every time something like this happens, it just takes a little bit away from the strength of the other 19 municipalities.”

Finizio said in a letter to Butler that the City Council removed funding for the membership during deliberations on the 2013 fiscal year budget. He said he would be unable to approve funding for the membership without council approval.

"I hope New London's withdrawal of membership is not seen as an unwillingness to work with the region on issues that concern us all," Finizio wrote. "In future budget cycles I hope the city of New London will be able to renew our membership."

SCCOG Chairman and Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said SCCOG should give a presentation to the city council about the positive aspects of the group. SCCOG member and Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon agreed, saying the group should emphasis the positive.

“The message from (SCCOG) needs to be positive,” Congdon said. “(New London is) an integral part of this region.”

What Is SCCOG, Benefits

SCCOG is one of several councils of governments across Connecticut. The group is composed of 20 municipalities and the two Native American tribes in Southeastern Connecticut, and once-a-month a representative from each town (generally the first selectman or mayor) meet in Norwich.

The group aims to get funding on regional projects such as regional transportation and regional water service, among other duties. New London has specifically benefited from SCCOG, as the group has secured millions of dollars to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, Butler said.

As an example, New London is expected to receive more than $1 million in funding secured by SCCOG to complete Phase 2 of the Montauk Avenue project, Butler said. If New London withdraws, SCCOG funds will go to projects in other towns and cities that do pay their dues, Butler said.

“This isn’t a threat,” Butler said. “It’s just an opportunity for (SCCOG) to spend money on its members.”

Carol D. Fox July 19, 2012 at 07:03 PM
@Clark: At this point, who typed it is irrelevant. Even a college graduate should know how to write a proper business letter. It's not a question of tradition, it's a question of proper and improper. And it should be proper coming out of the Mayor's office.
Zak Leavy July 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Suzanne, I appreciate the criticism of the letter and am always happy to take suggestions. However, that is how we formatted this letter, we have various ways and format them differently. Now, to the information. It is actually accurate. The Council transferred the responsibility of the dues to the Mayor's office but not the funding for it. The line-item was essentially de-funded. Even though it is in our budget, the money that was paid for it in Council's budget did not come with it. We are going to request a line-item transfer to our department so that we are able to pay the dues and continue our involvement in this regional organization. However, if that is denied we will have to wait until next budget cycle to put money into the line-item. Secondly, the "$70,000 a year secretary." She actually has taken a 25% pay cut and is now making 52K/year. I know that there is a large outcry about her salary, but she has taken a very large pay cut to continue her service to the City which is respectable in these tough times for our City. I look forward to answering any questions that everyone may have to the best of my knowledge and having a constructive dialogue.
Luis Smart July 19, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Zak, You are a little boy in a man's world. You looked as if you were going to cry when council staff put you in your place at the last council meeting. A business letter has a specific and professional format as you mature you will understand that. If the council put the money back in for the $70K salary why would she take a cut? Use the difference for the COG dues. The people are not stupid Zak, your allegience to the mayor will limit your future opportunities.
Zak Leavy July 19, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Luis, While I would prefer that we do not take jabs at each other since that limits the constructiveness of a conversation, I will take what you said into consideration. However, she took a cut because the cost of this economic crisis needs to be felt across all of City government and we needed to fit into the bottom line the Council gave us. If you disagree with the format, I will work on resolving any issues in the future.
Carol D. Fox July 20, 2012 at 12:12 AM
@Zak, you really gave me a laugh. I'm tempted to redo the letter for you the proper way, but I will leave it alone. Just so you know, if its a letter, you never put To: The To: is used in a memo whether it be interoffice or out of office. I would suggest you google the proper formats for letters, and please remember, the appearance of your letter reflects on the work your office performs. That is a standard policy in any office you work in.
John Yannacci, Sr. July 20, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Zak, Here you go: http://www.letterwritingguide.com/
Clark van der Lyke July 20, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Years ago I worked on a year long study by a major insurance company aimed at creating standard memos and business letters. The cost for the expensive program and the resulting 30 page standards manual was passed on to the policy holders. I suppose the city could create a memo and letter manual as well and pass the cost on to the taxpayers. However, I and most people I know in local government, take care to make sure their email, memos and essential letters are accurate and effective without resorting to multi-page standards manuals based on one of the many books of styles offered by various authors. Do they still teach standards in letter and memo writing in high school English? I don't think they do in college from what I have seen. The question then is how much to we need or want to press for standards in every day business? Did I have a comma fault in the previous sentence ? oops!
Clark van der Lyke July 20, 2012 at 01:29 AM
"do we need or want to press for in standards" OK...Rule 4-Read your stuff before pressing "submit."
OneNewLondon July 20, 2012 at 01:29 AM
In years past, this city has been filled with older and "more experienced" people running things, FAR MORE than format issues occurred in those decades! Get a grip, the embarrassment of two decades of poor decision making is far worse than a mistake in format. But, I'm not surprised you can't tell the difference.
OneNewLondon July 20, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Kathleen, perhaps the "70K Administrative Assistant" was busy working. More importantly, Kathleen, what were you doing the morning the infamous letter was drafted in error?
Carol D. Fox July 20, 2012 at 01:40 AM
@John: Great reference guide.
Zak Leavy July 20, 2012 at 02:29 AM
@ John and Carol, thank you for the reference guide. Also, Carol you are absolutely right that it reflects on the work our office performs and I will do better in the future. However, what is getting lost in the focus on the formatting of a letter is that it is unfortunate that the line-item for SCCOG dues was de-funded. The money didn't follow the transfer and hopefully a line-item transfer can occur.
Kathleen Mitchell July 20, 2012 at 03:26 AM
OneNewLondon, Why would you think that what I was doing the morning the infamous letter was drafted was more important than what the mayor's Administrative Assistant was doing? Zak, As much as I like you, even you have to admit that "THE LETTER" didn't look all that great. Having already told you of my admiration for your skills and talent, the only possible explanation for your involvement in "THE LETTER" situation is the possible onset of arthuritis(that's for you, Clark)due to holding the mayor's umbrella. Sorry, Zak, I couldn't resist it. It was good seeing you this morning and even that guy you hang out with. PS: Pay no attention to that guy named Luis Smart. I don't even think that's her real name.
Carol D. Fox July 20, 2012 at 10:16 AM
@Zak: Thanks for the information. That certainly clears up why the $15,000 wasn't paid. @Kathleen: Take notice of the the reason Kathleen.
John Yannacci, Sr. July 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM
If ensuring correct spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and format is irrelevant, what is the job of a secretary? I assumed that the boss wrote down the gist of the letter and the secretary ensured all of the above. As I said previously, I'm not a grammarian; I don't know how many dictionaries and thesauri I've worn out due to my mediocre spelling ability and vocabulary. I do bleieve, though, that if you are going to do something, at least attempt to do it right. Brushing off professionalism as just being so passe seems to be the hallmark of this administration.
Kathleen Mitchell July 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Carol, I already knew the reason and have even posted it elsewhere a number of times(see below). Who do you think told Zak the reason;>) It was transferred to the mayor's side of the budget because it is the "... municipal chief elected officials..." that make up the membership. Of course, if the mayor can't find the money in his budget, chooses not to or refuses to ask the council to assist in this situation INSTEAD of again using the press to further embarrass this city and citizens, there is another solution. Let the council transfer it back to their budget and let Council President Passero take the seat and represent our city at SECOGG. " The motion as amended passed 6-1. The City Council approves the following additional reductions to the Council budget: reduce overtime by $513; Council Mileage $500; Operating Expenses/Miscellaneous Events $2,000; Cruise Ship Task Force $1,000; Film Commission $1,000; Eastern Connecticut Symphony $1,000; New London Street $20,000; Garde Arts Center $20,000; transfer membership costs for Council of Governments to the Mayor’s Budget; and reinstate the $1,000 for Professional Services/Consultant Professional Services/Consultant. Those voting in favor: Maynard, Macrino, Passero, Sprecace, Friess-McSparran, Nolan. Those voting against: Hyslop.
Carol D. Fox July 20, 2012 at 01:01 PM
@Kathleen: I understand what you are saying and I understand what he is saying. The Council may have approved it, but the money has not been transferred to his budget. Bottom line.
Kathleen Mitchell July 20, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Carol, That's pure#$%^%$#$. Each department allocates the funds within their departments. The Mayor chose NOT to include SSCOG dues on his budget. Moreover, the Mayor could have asked the Council to transfer funds instead of revealing his embarrassing misunderstanding of the regional government process. His announced withdrawal is almost like sending a letter to the Governor announcing that the City if seceding from the State.
NewLondonSource July 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Actually, Zak, once the council passed the motion to transfer the budget line item, it is up to Jeff Smith - you know, our FINANCE director - to transfer the associated funds. The practice of passing the buck and pointing fingers holds little water when the facts work against you 100% of the time.
Zak Leavy July 22, 2012 at 07:16 PM
@Newlondonsource, the bottom line to the Mayor's budget did not change when they transferred the funds over. If the Council had funded it during the budget discussions, the bottom line would have changed to reflect it as well.
Spencer July 22, 2012 at 11:40 PM
KM--which TC meeting did that amendment pass--and was it for the purpose of creating money for the Mayor to pay SCCOG???
NewLondonSource July 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM
@Zak: So, I again offer, why hasn't Daryl questioned why Jeff Smith didn't transfer the funds instead of playing politics and unnecessarily blaming council? Also, regardless of who made the oversight, there was no reason for Daryl to grandstand and send the letter to the COG; he should have at least demonstrated that he exhausted all available contingencies to fund our continued involvement. The way it is, it comes across as Daryl not communicating with anyone outside his circle (yet again), and doing something out of pure spite for the sake of politics as usual.
Zak Leavy July 23, 2012 at 12:32 AM
@Newlondon. Again, the funds did not transfer with the responsibility. The bottom line was never changed when the transfer was voted on. It was effectively a cut from what was the current Mayor's budget. There was no "grandstanding" on this issue. The administration did not send the letter to the press. SCCOG did. We sent it to SCCOG to make them aware that we did not have the funds to continue because the line-item had not been funded.
Alan Green, Jr. July 23, 2012 at 01:19 AM
John - it should be obvious that everyone wants to be in the SCCOG. Re: soup kitchens, I was kidding. I've seen no one in this city using them as pawns.
Alan Green, Jr. July 23, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Thank you, Mr. Smart, for here exposing your true character. Zak is too polite to say it, but you're a bully. You're absolutely right: we are all misfit toys. And I have a feeling Santa's not going to visit you this year. Sorry. We don't usually give advance warning like that. Forget that. I didn't say it.
Alan Green, Jr. July 23, 2012 at 01:31 AM
John - you're too funny, smart---. There was nothing wrong with Zak's letter. Ok. Maybe a comma I'd have put in that last line... but it looked impressive to me. Nicely spaced. Big STRONG mayor's signature on the bottom there... that's what kills y'all! :D As for pure spite and politics as usual, that's just sad to think that kind of thing.. how about out of principal? How about politics as Unusual for New London? That's what I see. That's what I voted for.
Sue P. July 23, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Kathleen stop making sense you are confusing people. Especially the Mayor who has no idea what he is doing. This is to the point of just being straight out silly.
NewLondonSource July 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM
@Zak: please don't act so naive; You and Daryl knew the letter would get press attention, even if indirectly. The question still stands: Why didn't Daryl have Jeff transfer the funds? It's an admin -not council - problem.
Zak Leavy July 23, 2012 at 09:31 PM
@Newlondonsource, The letter was made public during an SCCOG meeting. We did not release it and did not think it would make the press. We have released letters to various organizations that never make press. And again, the bottom line, dictated by Council, did not change with the responsibility of the transfer. The Administration has gotten in trouble for allegedly spending money that we did not have. It is not Jeff's job to allocate additional money to a department when the Council has already decided on the bottom line of that departments budget. When the responsibility was transferred over the money did not follow with it. The bottom line stayed the same as it was before the transfer was made. Hence, it was essentially a cut to the Mayor's office budget and funding did not come with the transfer of responsibility.
Alysia Duke July 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM
$13.5G - 10% of it goes toward the projects. ;)

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