Laura Pisarcik was City of DeKalb’s financial director for three years until her resignation March 7.

Despite her position as a department head, Pisarcik’s departure went unannounced until the Daily Chronicle began making inquiries and reported the separation April 12.

Since then I’ve obtained the separation agreement from the city under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

A non-disclosure provision is item numbered six in the agreement, while items 10 and 13 indicate Pisarcik had up to 21 days to consult with an attorney before signing, and notes that she did. Pisarcik and Anne Marie Gaura signed it less than two months following Gaura’s installation as city manager in January.

Severance pay is explicitly rejected in the agreement, but Pisarcik’s accrued hours of paid time off came to a payout of $9,000.

The document is five pages long and I’ve placed it after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

From the Daily Chronicle’s weekend edition:

The city of DeKalb is without a finance director after Laura Pisarcik resigned the same week city Manager Anne Marie Gaura announced financial consultants would review the city’s financial policies and procedures.

Ordinarily I’d applaud the sight of heads rolling for the sake of accountability. This time I can’t. Here’s the problem: Though the Daily Chronicle published the news yesterday, Pisarcik resigned the first week of March. Her absence was discovered by accident last week, when somebody noticed her name had been removed from the city’s website and thought to ask about it. (Yeah, that was me.)

A city department head has been gone for a month without a public announcement of the departure? I wonder why?

Gaura acknowledged there is a separation agreement between the city and Pisarcik, but declined to disclose the details.

Oh.

Does Ms. Gaura think she can withhold these details indefinitely? I’ve already submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, and please note I’ve never been denied copies of any contract. And when it comes specifically to separation agreements, we have only to recall that the Chronicle had no problem obtaining agreements signed with former city clerk Steve Kapitan and former park district executive director Cindy Capek.

There’s no doubt the separation agreement will come out. Also, Laura Pisarcik would have been missed at the next budget meeting, right? The city manager has blown, for no good reason, an opportunity to build trust with the community.

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

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.

DeKalb Public Library and Greed

In a post from January 10, I told you I’d continue trying to get information about the state’s Public Library Construction Grant Program since we knew so few of the institutions that won them.

Part of the reason it has taken so long to get back to you is that I goofed up my chance to fight for the information. Yep, I sure did. Since the Illinois State Library had always responded quite fully and promptly to previous Freedom of Information Act requests, I didn’t bother to make a copy of the request for the list of awardees. This time they denied me the document and I was unable to ask for a review of the decision because under FOIA you must provide a copy of the original FOIA request along with the Request for Review.

The lesson here, of course, is not to trust anybody — not even librarians. Read the rest of this entry

Last month I was going through recent City of DeKalb check registers for something or other and came across a payment out of DeKalb’s Central Area Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Fund for $189 with the description “EGYPTN THTR UNCLG BSMNT DRN.” I also found descriptions for “EGYPTN THTR STG DOORS LCKS” and “LGHT FXTR WMNS BTHRM.”

These items sounded more like regular maintenance than the private property rehab/development that TIF is supposed to support, but I figure the city probably has plausible excuses for them, perhaps repairs for damage done by clumsy plasterers or painters?

Two of the October entries are for engineering services with descriptions of “EGYPTN THTR ALLEY RCNSTRCTN.” This must be TIF-speak for “taxpayers are footing the bill for heated sidewalks.” Read the rest of this entry

Click on the image for a larger version.

TIF Funds Spent on Airport photo 2013TIFmoneyforairport_zps90cec782.jpg

The Search for John Rey

A reader sent me this yesterday.

If you’re new to DeKalb, I should explain that John Rey was elected mayor of DeKalb last spring.

search for john rey photo thesearchforjohnrey_zps60910e25.jpg

To be fair, the city’s website search seems to have made a recovery today. It may even function better than it did before, though I say this cautiously, not having accessed the search for many months due to its years-long history of exceptional uselessness.

Still, even in the face of apparent improvement it doesn’t earn a “B” in my government website gradebook. That’ll happen when I no longer have to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests — as I did today — to get check register entries grouped by date, vendor and/or fund.

The campaign promises to bring us searchable databases ring hollow to my ears now, six months later.

The Manning Numbers

A request made by Brad Manning Ford came up in the last DeKalb council meeting agenda:

The dealership says it can get $400,000 from Ford to put towards the [$2.3 million expansion] project, but that it still can’t foot the rest of the bill. The $110,000 that it is requesting from the city represents about 4.7 percent of the total cost – below the city’s traditional maximum project cost-sharing percentage of 20 percent.

The requested rebate would come from new sales taxes generated over and above the existing taxes that the dealership generates now, according to city documents. The program would end after seven years, or whenever the $110,000 mark is met using a 50-50 split – whichever happens first.

According to documents that the dealership provided to the city, it expects to generate a total of $110,000 in sales taxes in 2014 and more than $170,000 per year by the year 2020.

I left a comment with the story:

I like Manning Ford a lot and have had great experiences with their sales, service and rental departments. However, I note that the City of DeKalb purchased a $29,350 Ford Explorer from them in June, and I wonder which dealer ended up supplying the new squad cars totaling $151,700? In other words, maybe Manning is already getting enough help from the city?

Read the rest of this entry

The city manager, not the mayor, is the chief executive officer in DeKalb’s council-manager form of government. Ideally we should be paying as much attention to selection of the city manager as we do the mayoral election — especially these days, when the city council declines to put expiration dates on their managers’ contracts and allows the manager to spend up to $20,000 at a time without council approval.

Personal conclusions notwithstanding, there is a process in place for hiring a city manager that is supposed to let the cream rise to the top. Recently I sifted through documents obtained through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to bring you an update. Read the rest of this entry