HAMMOND | A Hammond city councilman resparked the debate over the elimination of a support position from the City Council office at the group's last meeting of the year.
Hammond City Councilman Bob Markovich, D-at large, and Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. traded barbs over the cut, which will be absorbed through a retirement, before the City Council passed the city's 2013 budget in October.
Two months later, Markovich asked council members who voted for the elimination to explain how the office would function come the beginning of the year.
Markovich called the decision a “gross negligence,” claiming the way the City Council handled the cut was not legal.
The retirement, which council members learned of on the day of the final vote on the budget, leaves one administrative position in the council's office.
But Markovich said he's learned the council should have left the eliminated position in the 2013 budget since the retirement is not effective until February. He claimed the discrepancy may leave the secretary who is not retiring without a job.
“You can't pay two people for the same position at the same time out of the same fund,” Markovich said.
Markovich's assertion was rebuked by two council members, who maintained the non-retiring secretary will keep her job and the cut was a responsible choice to save money.
“As far as you know, your insinuation this was irresponsible on the part of the City Council, I beg to differ,” Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D- at large, said.
“There have been cuts in every department in this city, and we've not had any cuts. We have had two people. Granted, I've only been on the council a little over a year. I haven't asked for that much to be done.
"I write my own letters. I send my own emails. I make my own phone calls. I do not see how having one person in that office is going to jeopardize the job that we have to do.”
Councilman Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, said if the council had not brought up the cut at its October meeting, it would have had to wait a year.
"I introduced it, and people voted their conscience," Kalwinski said. "I do believe after a lot of discussion people thought that position could be handled as one, and it will be a position as one come Jan. 1."