Mayor Throws in Towel in Trying to Oust City Manager

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Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina appeared to throw in the towel last week in his long quest to have City Manager Anthony Ruggiero removed.

Responding to comments from a few speakers who questioned Ruggiero still being able to keep his $163,000 position despite not adhering to certain requirements under the City Charter, Catalina seemed to concede defeat.

“It’s up to the Council to decide if the law was broken. It’s almost a dead horse at this point and we keep beating it,” Catalina remarked.

Catalina and his Republican colleagues have claimed a written opinion from the city’s corporation counsel stating the Common Council violated the City Charter and New York Statutory and Common Law when they hired Ruggiero to a five-year contract leaves the office technically vacant.

A resolution last month appointing Ruggiero as acting city manager that Catalina maintained had been agreed upon by the entire council in closed door discussions failed when the four Democrats abstained, thus keeping Ruggiero in the job he has held since July 2013.

“We have an acting city manager and we’re moving forward,” Catalina said.

“We have an awful lot of business to move on and move forward,” added Councilwoman Kathy Talbot.

According to the Charter, a city manager is required to have at least three years’ experience as a city manager and reside in the city. Ruggiero lives in Fishkill and never served before as a city manager. Ruggiero worked for the city in planning for 13 years before being named city manager in June 2013 after he left six months earlier to become Putnam County’s commissioner of planning,

Resident George Ondek questioned a provision in Ruggiero’s employment agreement, obtained by the Northern Westchester Examiner, that stated, “For the purpose of earning and accruing vacation, sick leave and personal time, (Ruggiero) shall start his employment with the city as a 25-year employee of the city…immediately upon commencing employment, (Ruggiero) shall have a credit of 25 days (the equivalent of five weeks) of vacation time in a vacation bank.”

Ruggiero is also given $400 a month as a vehicle allowance and has until July 15, 2015 to move to Peekskill, where he is entitled to be reimbursed up to $25,000 for relocation expenses.

“This is what gets the people of Peekskill mad,” Ondek remarked.

However, in a somewhat surprise statement, Catalina defended the terms of the contract approved by the seven Democrats at the time.

“I’m sure those numbers were not picked out of the air,” Catalina said. “I’m sure the Council had some rational basis to it.”

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