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Councilor accuses mayor of misleading about planning merger

Ryan Delaney

An increasingly disgruntled Syracuse common councilor accused the mayor's office of misleading taxpayers about the city and Onondaga County's merger of their planning departments.

Just as Monday's routine pre-meeting study session was wrapping up, councilor Lance Denno called the mayor's press secretary, Alexander Marion, before them.

Denno referenced an April press release detailing the plans to merge the city and county's planning departments. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's office said the merger would save money in the long term.

Denno is accusing the mayor's office of misleading taxpayers about the savings associated with the merger.

"To release a statement saying that there would be a cost savings, when in fact there is not, and to release a statement that indicates that the taxpayer’s going to save money, when in fact the taxpayer’s going to be hit in the wallet is misleading, to put it politely," Denno told reporters after the heated exchange.

Before Marion could respond, the mayor's head of planning and sustainability, Andrew Maxwell, stepped in to play defense.

He told Denno the issue was discussed several times. He says the pay increases are because the employees are being transferred to the county payroll and as part of that becoming official civil service employees, which requires higher salaries.

"Moving individuals into civil service titles frequently means increases in salaries," Maxwell said. "That’s not something that typically has come up in the discussion, but it’s true. We’ve seen it in a number of occasions and we’re seeing it again today."

"There was no indication presented to the Common Council," said Denno, who added he hasn't missed a meeting or study session.

Maxwell said the merger will be better for the city and county in the long term - and save money in the long term.

Denno called the cost saving claims "speculative."