Common Council President James W. Pitts threatened to call police to eject the mayor's chief of staff from a meeting Tuesday, an unusual clash that some observers consider a sign of festering tensions between the Masiello administration and several lawmakers.
Some lawmakers have sharply criticized the administration in recent weeks about its minority hiring practices, its handling of the Hickory Woods controversy and, most recently, lending practices by the city's main development agency.
Vincent J. LoVallo appeared before the Council on Tuesday, trying to discuss the Council's decision to delay a vote on an application for block grant funding. But Pitts gaveled him down, and LoVallo stormed out of the 13th-floor chambers just as an aide to Pitts was picking up the phone to summon police.
"Mr. LoVallo, you are out of order," Pitts shouted.
When LoVallo persisted, Pitts issued a stern warning.
"You have no place in this meeting," the Council president said. "I will ask that you be removed if you don't stop disrupting this meeting."
A short time earlier, LoVallo tried to address lawmakers during their regular biweekly meeting, accusing Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher III of spreading "fallacies and misconceptions" about the administration's track record in hiring and promoting minorities.
Pitts ruled LoVallo out of order, enforcing a rule that bars speakers from addressing lawmakers during sessions.
LoVallo later pointed out that Pitts exercised a procedural privilege that permitted residents of Hickory Woods to speak at the same meeting.
"Mr. Pitts will let members of the audience speak, but he won't allow the mayor's chief of staff to provide important information to the Council," LoVallo grumbled. "I have a real problem with that."
Other political allies of Mayor Anthony M. Masiello were upset that not one Council member rallied to LoVallo's defense by asking that the rules be suspended so that he could be heard.
Fisher sponsored a resolution that questions the administration's hiring and promotion policies in the streets division. Fisher noted that there are no African-American supervisors, foremen or dispatchers in the unit.
Joseph N. Giambra, the city's commissioner of public works, filed a written response saying the city must follow civil service procedures when it makes competitive appointments.
"To the best of our knowledge, no African-Americans are certified for appointment by the Civil Service Commission," Giambra wrote.
Of the 442 employees in the streets division, Giambra said, 53 -- or about 12 percent -- of the division's work force are minorities.
Fisher said he intends to ask detailed questions about hiring and promotions policies when the Council's Civil Service Committee meets Tuesday.
"The administration is very sensitive about this issue, and for good reason -- their numbers are embarrassing in some instances," Fisher said.
But LoVallo insisted that "dramatic improvements" have been made in hiring and promoting minorities in the past seven years.