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Spat over computer use at Syracuse City Hall continues

Ellen Abbott
The disagreement over a computer use policy between Syracuse Common Council and the mayor is impacting the city clerk's office.

A dispute over internet use at Syracuse City Hall is again headed to the courts. The issue over whether lawmakers should sign a city computer use policy hasn’t been able to be resolved through negotiations.

Councilor Kathleen Joy expects the Syracuse Common Council to file court papers in the next few days asking a judge to settle the issue of whether lawmakers should be forced to sign that computer use policy which is required of and agreed to by all city employees. A majority of councilors believe it would allow the Mayor’s office too much access to Council business. 

Joy notes a judge has already ruled that lawmakers aren’t employees of the executive branch.

"Even with that ruling, the administration has insisted that the computers be off, that we give up our rights, and we said no. So the only option we have now is to go to the other independent branch of government, the courts, and have them make a ruling,” said Joy.

Mayor Stephanie Miner has said all along that she thinks this whole issue is a waste of time and money.

"And you have a lame duck council that’s going back to spend city resources and in another six weeks at least three members won’t be there. I think there are better things to be spending city resources on and real problems that we have,” said Miner. "I’m working on real problems, and the computer use policy and whether the council signs it or doesn’t sign it is not a real problem.” 

Joy says the answer to the dispute is simple.

“Then have her turn them on, and then we can get on with our business,” said the councilor. “It’s money we are compelled to have to spend because of her obstinance in not turning our computers on.”

In the meantime, it’s been almost five months since the administration turned off the computers in council offices, and lawmakers have resorted to using snail mail, face-to-face meetings and faxes to get work done. 

This standoff also affects the city clerk’s office, because the clerk is appointed by the Council. There are two computers working in that office, though -- one to handle licenses mandated by the state, and another to create agendas for Common Council meetings.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.