In a quiet and semi-controversial move, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has bolstered her public relations team by hiring a pricey political consultant in response to an ongoing dispute over the Syracuse Inner Harbor.
According to Syracuse.com, renowned Democratic adviser Sherman Jewett, 44, began working as a part-time consultant to the city in January. His new role helps to fill the void left by the retirement of Tim Carroll, former director of mayoral initiatives for Miner’s administration.
Jewett is working remotely from Albany on an as-needed basis at a handsome rate of $175 per hour. While Jewett is widely respected in New York politics, his hiring was essentially kept secret for several months.
Even city hall members were unaware of Jewett’s role until just recently, partly because Miner offered him a contract through an obscure arm of city government called the Syracuse Urban Renewal Agency.
About 39% of part-time employees have access to retirement benefits, and though Jewett will not be eligible for such perks, many are still upset with his substantial pay rate. However, his hourly rate will still cost the city less than Tim Carroll’s former salary, which reached roughly $94,000 plus benefits before his retirement.
Alexander Marion, Mayor Miner’s press secretary, dismissed accusations of secrecy on behalf of the mayor by claiming that the Urban Renewal Agency “enabled us to hire a consultant in an expedient, efficient manner.” Had Miner sought a standard city contract, the hiring would have been subject to approval by the Common synthroid Council.
“While the vacancy created as the result of Tim Carroll’s retirement remains unfilled, the city has — as an interim solution — contracted with an experienced outside communications specialist at a significant savings,” Marion added.
Many believe that Mayor Miner is seeking guidance from Jewett to help resolve an ongoing dispute between Syracuse City Hall and Onondaga County Officials over the stalled development of the Syracuse Inner Harbor.
As CNYVision.com previously reported, Mayor Miner hired COR Development to establish a waterfront neighborhood on the harbor in 2012 for $350 million. In December, Miner sued the company after it allegedly circumvented the city to obtain tax breaks for the project.
Now, Steve Aiello, president of COR Development, has accused Mayor Miner and two city councilors of lying in court documents, asserting that his company was always forthright about its willingness to seek tax breaks for the development.
Jewett, who spent 13 years working in the New York State Assembly, is expected to help ease tensions between Mayor Miner and her detractors. In his most recent role, Jewett held a $150,000-a-year full-time position as vice chancellor for communications at the State University of New York.
Many people seem to have lost faith in Mayor Miner as a result of the Inner Harbor dispute, but local pundits fully expect Jewett’s hiring to improve communication between the city and its residents.