Once upon a time, City of Sycamore and City of DeKalb had duly elected, full-time city clerks. Sycamore still has one. DeKalb’s, however, was destroyed in 2013. Low compensation and transfer of powers to the city manager’s office have deprived us of elected clerks and clerk candidates ever since.

Whatever the city thought it was doing when it allowed this state of affairs, the reality is that DeKalb residents may soon be facing their third election in which zero candidates for clerk appear on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry

On Monday, the city council discussed the compensation ordinance that will go into effect upon installation of the city’s elected officers in May. This was just the first reading. Passage is expected during the regular council meeting on October 25.

Council at this point is on track to continue to deprive us of another election for city clerk. This body plans to pay the next mayor $22,500 per year, the next clerk $8,000.

Members seem intent on keeping the clerk a part-time position, based on a vague notion of protecting themselves from “liability,” which we know does not exist because the city has never gotten into trouble for violations of open meetings and open records laws before or after they ruined the office of the clerk.

No, the reality is that the liability works the other way. You see, while council has lots of leeway when it comes to assigning duties and setting compensation, any ordinance that passes must be reasonable. And we know that DeKalb ordinances having to do with the clerk are demonstrably unreasonable because they’ve interfered with elections of the clerk. Read the rest of this entry

No closer than 180 days before newly-elected city officials take office next May, the city council must, per state law, set compensation for them via ordinances. This could happen tonight, at the next regular meeting, or possibly in early November if all else fails.

Compensation is set now in order to help eliminate the conflict of interest that would be created by a council’s setting its own pay, or that of a clerk they like personally. It’s supposed to be about the jobs, not the personalities involved. Read the rest of this entry

If you are a resident of City of DeKalb, this post is for you – especially if you voted in the General Election of 2012.

DeKalb has an at-large city clerk elected by the people, despite at least two referendums over the past decade asking to switch to an appointed clerk. The latest question came in the fall of 2012, when 70.49% of voters rejected a referendum to allow the city to appoint the clerk.

Afterward, the city approved a compensation ordinance that slashed the pay from $60,000 to $5,000 per year for the clerk who was to be elected in municipal elections in 2013 for a four-year term.

The consequences have been devastating in the view of anyone who values the will of the voters. In the municipal election of 2009, when the clerk still had full-time compensation and duties, there were four candidates on the ballot; but in 2013, there were no candidates on the ballot, only write-ins. Then the write-in candidate who was elected in spring of 2013 resigned in the fall of 2014. Following that, there was a gap of several months when no clerk was serving, and then a write-in clerk candidate for the April 2015 election who secretly dropped out of the race sometime before Election Day. Three appointments to the office were made in 2015 alone. Read the rest of this entry

The DeKalb County Health Department is trying to persuade our county board to place a referendum on the November election ballot to begin levying a property tax specifically for health services.

If this referendum does appear on the ballot, the most pressing questions for voters must include evaluation of needs, and of DeKalb County’s stewardship of our money.

Turns out, I have an example related to the latter for you to consider. Let me introduce you to Cindy and Ed. Read the rest of this entry

When I told you about City of DeKalb’s policy to allow staff in administrative positions to bank comp time — as well as how much comp certain employees had accumulated — I could not include the comp and other accumulations of former city manager Mark Biernacki because he’d already cashed out in mid-June. But, here are the payout numbers for you. Read the rest of this entry

The employment contract between City of DeKalb and its new manager, Anne Marie Gaura, is part of the agenda for Monday’s council meeting.

I’m pretty pleased about this pick — Gaura’s resume looks the best to me of all the city manager candidates in terms of range and depth of experience — and I’m pleased with this contract, too. It has an expiration date. And look here:

The Parties acknowledge that under current provisions of City Code, Chapter 3 employees are entitled to accrue and be compensated for “Comp Time” or “Compensatory Time.” Notwithstanding such provisions, the Parties expressly agree and acknowledge that Employee is a management employee, exempt from FLSA overtime provisions. Employee shall not accrue or be eligible to be compensated for Comp Time or Compensatory Time, and any contrary provision of Chapter 3 shall be inapplicable to Employee.

They maybe ended up having to offer more salary in exchange for the Chapter 3 exemption, and that’s fine. Salary goes up front on the very publicly-discussed budget, while comp and other such paid leave accumulations take compensation off budget and push it into a little corner of growing liabilities in annual financial reports that only a few oddballs like me bother to read.

Anyway, these are welcome changes. Hat tip to His Honor and the council for some good decision-making lately. If Gaura is as tough and honest as she is experienced, DeKalb could really be looking at a new day.

This is more from the June 2013 Benefits Hours Report I was telling you about yesterday.

Code/Type
of Hours
Hours
Used
Hours
Available
Available
Cost
300 Sick Pay4,172.7579,776.103,073,591.38
400 Vacation11,442.5021,029.66811,315.64
500 Comp Used1,974.7512,397.48457,938.93
550 Floating Hldy384.00185.008,590.87
560 Banked Comp45.0016,427.10807,522.19
301 Sick Pay Fire2,274.2550,421.751,544,619.90
401 Vacation Fire7,920.0010,608.00326,591.66
501 Comp Used Fire.00317.6310,018.57
561 Banked Comp Fire.002,169.6468,972.21
Totals28,213.25193,332.36$7,109,161.35

You can see that the banked comp (560) truly is banked, and the administrator-depositors are enjoying nice, risk-free annual increases when raises and COLAs are applied.

The caps on unused sick leave are very high in all departments. In fact, there are about 50 city employees who, thanks to overly-generous sick leave and/or comp time policies, could quit their jobs tomorrow and potentially walk away with checks for more than $50,000. Read the rest of this entry

Comp Time Champs

***Clarification*** added 12/3 due to a question that came up in this Facebook discussion: Firefighters often work overtime and they almost always receive overtime pay for it. However, according to their contract they might with permission accumulate a little comp time instead, up to 205 hours, after which no more comp time is permitted to be accumulated. My investigation of firefighter comp time actually turned out to be a red herring when it comes to high accumulations of paid leave and I only mentioned it to show that the path to the truth is not always linear.***

I’ve continued to look at the DeKalb firefighters’ current labor contract with the city since it is set to expire at the end of June. It says that fire personnel may accumulate up to 205 hours of comp time, so I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for comp time records for firefighters at about the end of the 2013 fiscal year (end of June or early July).

Luckily, I received more than I asked for because DeKalb Fire isn’t so much the story here.

Below is information about banked comp time hours drawn from a Benefit Hours Report that was generated June 26, 2013. Repeat: This is banked comp time only.

Name & Position/Dept.Banked Hours AvailableAvailable Cost
Espiritu (Asst. City Mgr.)689.845,399.19
Cleveland (Airport Mgr.)1660.075,525.02
Bauling (Engineering/Code/Transportation)1776.580,825.42
Maurer (Engineering/Code/Transportation)5337.0304,449.17
Hicks (Fire Chief)640.539,456.72
Hoyle (Fire)504.029,130.39
Hoadley (Police)706.5540,837.46
LeMay (Fire)1030.628,767.24

Another two dozen city employees had banked $5,000 to $25,000 in comp by the time of the report.

I’ll put up more numbers later this week.

Related post: On the Trail of the Legendary Comp Time Monster.

Justice is Served in Bell

We return our attention to Bell, California. Administrators and council members there paid themselves exorbitant salaries while cutting city services, overcharging taxes and fees, and creating a major municipal revenue source out of a vehicle impounding program.

This and more was accomplished in a roughly DeKalb-sized town with per capita income of $24,000.

Now, today I was sent a link (thanks!) to an article with this beautiful headline: Bell Council Members Guilty of Multiple Corruption Counts.

Five former council members were found guilty of stealing public money. Two former city administrators are still awaiting trial.

Key factors in the corruption seem to include a lack of oversight — Bell does not have its own newspaper — an aggressive city manager “mastermind,” and Bell’s status as a charter city, which allows its government to ignore state limits on salaries and other spending.

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Site news: Posting is sure to remain very light through the rest of March and into April as the write-in campaign for city clerk continues. One way to be notified when I’ve posted is to visit or ask to join the City Barbs Facebook group if you use FB a lot.