© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rift forming between Oswego Common Council and mayor

Payne Horning
Newly installed president and vice president of the Oswego Common Council, Eric Vanburen and John Gosek, talk with Councilor Pat McLaughlin, who helped form the majority for their election.

As Oswego city lawmakers prepare for the second year of their term, a power struggle seems to be emerging between the common council and the mayor.

In a close vote this week, the Oswego Common Council removed the president and vice president of the council from their leadership roles. Those positions are now filled by councilors who went to battle with Mayor Billy Barlow and City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli last month over a sewer contract with the town of Oswego.

Newly installed council President Eric VanBuren says that fight was a catalyst for the change in leadership. 

"I mean it certainly is something that puts a fire under you," VanBuren said. "The council lost a little footing. I don't know if it was just a lot of freshmen councilors coming on and them coming into their own and finding their own way, but at the same time the council is a separate branch of government. We need to represent ourselves and have our own interests and agendas and those things." 

VanBuren and Barlow butted heads over Caraccioli's dual role as attorney for both the city and town of Oswego. Oswego's assistant attorney had represented the city when the two municipalities entered into negotiations, but VanBuren says there was still overlapping counsel. So he's pursuing a change to the Oswego charter that would make the assistant city attorney the council's lawyer so they can get advice when they disagree with Barlow or Caraccioli. He notes that both attorneys are currently appointed by the mayor.

"I'm not trying to say the mayor has some agenda or he's going to put pressure on these people," VanBuren said. "That's not the case, but the ability to work for someone and represent another individual's interest when those two conflict presents a problem for us."

Caraccioli calls the change unnecessary, saying both the city attorney and assistant city attorney serve at the pleasure of the mayor and council.

"Historically, both the city attorney and the assistant city attorney is at the full disposal of the common council and the mayor it's always worked that way and candidly I think it worked well that way this year," Caraccioli said. 

During a discussion about the proposed attorney change, the division among the councilors seemed to fall along the same lines as seen earlier when votes for the council's leadership were taken.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.