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Proposal to eliminate council aides dies at dais

OCEANSIDE — A proposal by Councilman Jack Feller to eliminate City Council aides and use the funds for the Brook Street Swim Center did not get a second for discussion on Oct. 3, but it is an item City Council will likely look at again. 

“It’s a legitimate issue,” Councilman Gary Felien said. “It needs to change in some way. It’s taking it too far to eliminate aides entirely. It’s not right to leave it the way it is either.”

After the meeting, council members said part of the reason for letting the motion die was the specific allocation of general funds for the swim center. The standard procedure is to direct the city manager to advise the council on the best use for general funds.

Council members also said that the timing of the motion was off.

The notion of reducing the number of council aides was previously discussed during the annual city budget review.

Currently the city manager does not have an assistant and the mayor and council members have full-time aides who are paid between $44,412 and $56,676 annually.

Council aides are assigned tasks that range from answering phones, to researching legislative information and representing council members at functions.

“I don’t know how we can get it all done ourselves,” Mayor Jim Wood said.

“It is not secretarial work,” Felien said. “They research and follow up on issues on my behalf. It’s critical to my being able to serve.”

The council aide position is at-will employment that can terminate at any time.

Feller described aides as absent from their $44,000 jobs. He said one aide could do the job of serving all council members and the mayor.

Feller gave his aide kudos for being a consummate professional, but said he found he could accomplish his job as councilman without an aide when she was on eight weeks of sick leave.

“I will not lay mine off because of this issue, but when she retires I will not get another one,” Feller said.

He said he brought up the item due to his frustration at seeing vacant City Council offices and no one available to answer constituents’ phone calls.

“If somebody was up there looking at our aides coming and going — they would be astounded how little time the mayor’s aide is there,” Feller said. “One council member has had eight different ones. It takes a lot of time to train one.”

“They are not spending time at the office where they should be for people who come to the front desk,” he added. “There’s no reason to have them.”

Council members said they are satisfied with the work their aides are doing and that the city is “getting its money’s worth.”

They also said they support some reduction in the number or aides or the hours they work.

Felien said he considered sharing an aide with a fellow council member and decided to hire a full-time aide at the lower end of the salary scale.

He added that it is important that aides have one council member to report to so that no conflicts of assignment priorities arise.

The item of reducing the number of City Council aides or their hours is expected to be revisited during the next city budget review.