City Comptroller John Tuey will take over the lead in the city’s negotiations with its largest employee union after Mayor Steve Noble stepped away from the bargaining table, citing a conflict of interest involving his wife and fellow city employee.
The Civil Service Employee Association’s Kingston unit represents about 240 rank-and-file city workers, including members of the Department of Public Works, Parks & Recreation and City Hall clerical staff. The last CSEA contract, negotiated by former mayor Shayne Gallo, expired on Dec. 31, 2016. Since then, Noble has led negotiations with the union. On Monday, Noble acknowledged that on the advice of city attorneys he had recused himself from further involvement in talks.
“Earlier this month, I was advised by Corporation Counsel that due to my spouse being a member of the CSEA, I have a conflict of interest relative to my involvement with the CSEA negotiations,” Noble wrote in an emailed statement on Monday. “Immediately thereafter, I acknowledged this conflict and City Comptroller John Tuey immediately assumed my role for the duration of these negotiations.”
Noble’s wife, Julie, works as an environmental educator and sustainability coordinator under the city’s Parks & Recreation Department. Julie Noble’s base pay for 2018 is $44,997. Including longevity pay, medical, retirement and other benefits, total compensation for the job equals $87,340. The Nobles worked side by side at Parks & Rec for a decade prior to Steve Noble’s ascension to the mayor’s office in 2016. During the contentious 2015 Democratic primary, Gallo supporters sought to make an issue of Julie Noble’s city job, saying it would create a conflict of interest were her husband to become mayor. At the time, Steve Noble said he recognized the potential for conflicts of interest and that he would deal with the issue by recusing himself from decision-making involving his wife’s employment.
On Tuesday, CSEA regional spokeswoman Jessica Ladlee confirmed that Noble had stepped aside from negotiations with the Kingston unit due to a conflict of interest. Ladlee declined to comment further on the talks or the exact nature of the conflict.
“Regardless of whom we are negotiating with or whom we sit across the table from, our biggest goal is a deal that’s fair to all,” said Ladlee.
Noble will continue to lead negotiations with the Kingston Police Benevolent Association and the Kingston Professional Firefighters Association. Both unions’ contracts expired at the end of 2016. Because of the state’s Triborough Amendment, all three unions’ members will continue to receive the same pay and benefits contained in the expired contract, pending the approval of a new labor agreement.