By Kevin Kelley
City Council has failed to override Mayor Eileen Patton’s veto of a controversial ordinance requiring various disclosures from contractors bidding on municipal projects costing more than $50,000. Two councilmen – Brian McDonough of Ward 1 and Pete Matia of Ward 5 – who had voted for the ordinance just two weeks ago, voted against overriding the mayor’s veto at Monday night’s meeting.
The city charter requires “a majority plus one,” or five votes, to override a mayor’s veto. The ordinance passed by a 5-2 vote Sept. 17.
Many of the roughly 60 people in attendance Monday night applauded when the vote to override the mayor’s veto failed, 4-3. It was the only time Patton has exercised her veto power since taking office in 2000.
Opponents specifically objected to the required disclosure of a contractor’s participation in a registered “bona fide apprenticeship program.” They argued that factor in evaluating bids would give an edge to union or large firms to the detriment of smaller, nonunion ones.
McDonough, who said he had been inundated with more than 50 e-mails, letters and phones calls from opponents of the ordinance, acknowledged he was specifically targeted among the five council members who voted to pass the ordinance. The Ward 1 councilman said he received just a single phone call from an ordinance supporter.
Besides the letters and emails, McDonough said he was influenced by Ryan Miller, the president of the northern Ohio chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, an organization that represents construction firms. According to McDonough, Miller told him the ordinance was bad for Fairview Park and for small businesses that don’t participate in apprenticeship programs.
McDonough, an assistant county prosecutor, told West Life he was concerned the disclosure requirements would discourage small businesses from bidding on city contracts and thus increase the costs of such projects.
While saying the ordinance was neither pro- or anti-union, Matia called the legislation flawed, adding that the divisiveness it has caused is not good for the community. Legislation should not become so controversial, he told West Life. The Ward 5 councilman left the door open to consideration of another ordinance that tightens regulation of municipal contractors.
Matia explained that the flaw he referred to was the introductory clause that alleged “systematic efforts to lower standards in public construction projects” and “cut corners” in workers wages and safety. Patton had specifically criticized that paragraph after council passed the ordinance two weeks ago, saying its statements have been untrue in Fairview Park.
In his public remarks following the veto vote, Council President Mike Kilbane said the paragraph in question accurately describes the overall plight of working people, not anything particular to Fairview Park. The wording did contrast with the “flowery and upbeat language” often used in municipal ordinances and resolutions, Kilbane noted sharply.
Kilbane, who introduced and pushed for the bidder ordinance, addressed the objections listed in the mayor’s veto letter. The council president noted that Patton’s administration called his ordinance unnecessary because the required disclosures are already covered by other regulations. But the mayor also charged it added “layers of requirements” without need on potential contractors.
“Which is it?” Kilbane asked rhetorically.
The bidder ordinance, Kilbane said, “elaborates on some of the existing language and creates a much clearer template for the officials reviewing the bids to follow.”
Kilbane also charged opponents of the ordinance waged a “campaign of misinformation” and questioned the credentials of pool contractors he said he observed while touring the city’s recreation center while it was under construction. The council president’s defense of the proposal received some applause from supporters in the audience.
For her part, Patton said she applauded the involvement of those residents who spoke out against the bidder ordinance.
“This is the first time in my 13 years (as mayor) where residents became involved in what’s happening in our city,” the mayor said during her report to council, which received applause.