Public Watchdog.org

Ald. Moran Provides Object Lesson On Anti-H.I.T.A. City Government

08.03.17

Today we present another object lesson in bad local government.

Unlike most of our recent bad government lessons which tend to focus on those two Star Chambers that are the Boards of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Maine Twp. High School District 207, however, today’s lesson features the unit of local governmental that for the past 8 years has been a bastion of Honesty, Integrity, Transparency and Accountability (“H.I.T.A.”): The City of Park Ridge.

This lesson is provided courtesy of Alderman John Moran (1st) via his August 2, 2:19 p.m. comment to our July 26, 2017 post in which we criticized the City Council’s very own Star Chamber secretive closed-session process by which it transitioned Joe Gilmore from “Acting” to full-fledged City Manager. We suggest you read that post and its Comments as context for the rest of this post.

Notwithstanding Ald. Moran’s attempt to pivot from defending a bad selection process to defending the substantive merits of Gilmore’s appointment, such a politician’s maneuver can’t change what we already have said and will say once again: Gilmore has demonstrated the potential for becoming a better City Manager than any of his past three predecessors who under-served (Shawn Hamilton) and outright dis-served (Tim Schuenke, Jim Hock) the taxpayers of this community over the past 30 years.

So without further ado, let the lesson begin with Ald. Moran’s own words:

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To compare this process to the Heinz “rolling” contract” is not apples to apples. Also, this contract in its entirety was posted to the city website in advance of any finalization via council vote. How many citizens showed up to complain or ask questions about how were arrived at the proposed contract? How many emails did the council receive questioning the same? NONE We would have gladly explained how and why we came to the contract we did, but no one asked.

As for the 4 year contract, it is not a guaranteed 4 years he can be fired for cause or let go without cause, the later triggers a 4 month severance agreement, a fair deal, and not a windfall for Gilmore by any means(I’ve seen much longer deals in the private sector). Even the COLA only kicks in if the COL actually increases and we have a cap on it. If you are going to argue that it’s “guaranteed” in the fact that we can’t lower his salary, that is correct, but if his performance is so dismal that we want to lower his salary, I would argue we are better off firing him.

In my opinion, we simply could not discuss negotiation points on this matter in open session and still hope to get the best deal possible for the residents… you will only get the minimum acceptable deal.

As for the process the best analogy is this… Compare it to a game of Go Fish where one player has their cards face up and the other is playing them in hand.

There are very few times when the best interest of the taxpayer has to be handled in closed session, by the individuals who were elected to represent them. The council will be judged on the success or failure of the decisions like this. That is the nature of the position.

My comment about the Schmidt/Hamilton process (above) had less to do with the end result(shitty city manager) and more to do with the fact that Mayor Schmidt, the father of HITA, didn’t adhere to those principals when he and Hamilton negotiated on a cocktail napkin. Where was the public involvement there? So, why are we being held to a different standard on the process??

This was not a union negotiation, so again it’s not apples to apples. Labor negotiations can go to arbitration. The only 2 outcomes here were Joe Gilmore takes the job or he doesn’t. We identified him as a very desirable candidate and then attempted to obtain the best terms possible for the city. As for the hindsight on Hamilton vs Gilmore, in the 8 months(or so) he served as action city manager, Gilmore already had proven to be a more competent leader via the strategic planning and budget process.

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Acceptance of Ald. Moran’s arguments that “the best interest of the taxpayer” has been served by this contract requires that the taxpayers be dumb enough and/or apathetic enough to ignore the following inconvenient truths, none of which Ald. Moran seems to recognize or understand:

  1. The unprecedented 4-year duration of Gilmore’s contract is patently WORSE for the taxpayers (by a full year) than even D-64 Supt. Laurie Heinz’s ridiculous 3-year contract that the D-64 Board reflexively rolls over for another year as each current one expires;

 

  1. The unprecedented 4-year duration of Gilmore’s contract is patently WORSE for the taxpayers than the 9-month initial deal Mayor Dave gave Hamilton, as well as Hamilton’s subsequent at-will deal that required neither (a) cause for the City’s termination of him, nor (b) a 4-month severance entitlement like Gilmore just received; and

 

  1. Gilmore’s $171,000 salary – which cannot be reduced for the full 4-year duration and includes an automatic annual COLA increase – is WORSE for the taxpayers than Hamlton’s ending $160,000 one, which could be reduced and included no automatic raise.

In every material respect, therefore, the contract given Gilmore is bad for Park Ridge taxpayers – and the secretive process by which it came about even worse.

How far has this Council fallen away from H.I.T.A. ideals, and why?

Consider how Ald. Moran attempts to sweep this abuse of H.I.T.A. under the rug by noting that no taxpayers “showed up [at the Council meeting to complain or ask questions about how were [sic] arrived at the proposed contract” for Gilmore, blithely ignoring how the Council hid all Gilmore contract discussions in closed sessions for weeks before quietly slipping the finished contract into a meeting packet – with no advance notice or warning to either local newspaper or to the taxpayers – a mere 72 hours (48 of which were a weekend) before the meeting.

Will that kind of “hiding in plain sight” gamesmanship become the new paradigm for Transparency at City Hall?

Unfortunately, the answer may well be “yes” so long as taxpayers let this Council get away with it like they have let the D-64 Board and the D-207 Board get away with their Star Chamber closed sessions for all these years, even as their schools’ academic performance and rankings have fallen while the costs-per-student have soared.

What Ald. Moran’s arguments basically come down to is: Trust us – “the individuals who were elected to represent” the taxpayers.

That’s exactly the request/command we’ve heard from the likes of Mike Madigan, John Cullerton, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, Rahm Emanuel, Richie Daley and every other non-transparent, dishonest and accountability-shirking political weasel throughout this state who have done their part to run it into the ground over the past 30 years.

The reason Mayor Dave came up with H.I.T.A. is because no local taxpayer should have to trust any local public official, much less any local official who fancies himself/herself a “politician.” Instead, H.I.T.A . requires that those local officials trust us taxpayers enough to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – so that we can judge for ourselves whether they are acting in our best interest or selling us down the river.

But as we’ve seen over and over again, Transparency leads to Accountability. And no politician wants to be held accountable for anything unless it comes with a pat on the back and thunderous applause.

So if Ald. Moran and any other local officials want to talk the H.I.T.A. talk, they had better walk the H.I.T.A. walk.

And what they just did with the Gilmore contract isn’t even the H.I.T.A. crawl.

To read or post comments, click on title.

16 comments so far

HITA is practiced by a few officials, but used as an empty slogan by many.

The “no taxpayers showed up at the meeting” is such garbage excuse. He boasts on social media all the time…all while just wanting to be Mayor. He has no intention of HITA, he just ambition for control.

“And no politician wants to be held accountable for anything unless it comes with a pat on the back and thunderous applause.”

Agreed. There is absolutely no reason for this.

I hope that the mayor and the other aldermen are so embarrassed by this that they won’t even try to defend it and won’t repeat it in any way. And if Moran is this out to lunch, they should leave him on his own little island to look shifty and dishonest by himself.

I’m sure your beef with this current city council had nothing to do with the fact that they are sane enough not to offer you another term on tjhe library board.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, Mary!

We can understand how small-minded types might project their own pettiness onto this blog and/or its editor, but that’s not the way this editor or this blog rolls. We focus on policy, which is why this blog has consistently ripped fixed-term, multi-year contracts for local gov’t employees in posts such as:

(a) our post of 12.22.10, in which we ripped the then-council for giving then-City Mgr. Jim Hock a new 28-month contract that guaranteed him a $165,000 salary and a $110,000 severance payment;

(b) our post of 01.21.13, in which we criticized then-ald. Joe Sweeney for wanting to give then-city mgr. Shawn Hamilton the “job security” of a one-year contract extension, which then-ald. Marty Maloney denounced as the kind of “sweet deal…[a previous Council] did for Jim Hock” even though Maloney praised Hamilton as having done a “fantastic job” – presumably for the various performance successes we cited in our 05.24.16 post, but which a revisionist Ald. Moran now brands “shitty” in order to justify his wrongheaded support of this sweetheart Gilmore contract; and

(c) in that same 01.21.13 post we labeled as “legitimate” the criticisms by then-alds. Sal Raspanti and Maloney of the non-H.I.T.A. “process [for hiring Hamilton] employed by [Mayor Dave Schmidt]….”

And just for good measure, we condemned fixed-term contracts in our 06.06.13 post, noting: “Let’s call a spade a spade: these kinds of employment contracts protect the employee. Period.” We also praised “at will” employment of our city managers in our 07.08.13 post .

In case you’ve only got one hand free for counting, that’s seven – SEVEN (7) – years of consistent policy arguments supporting the positions we have taken in this post, the earliest of which pre-dates this editor’s initial appointment to the Library Board in 2011.

Given your socialist (except when the money is flowing into your pockets) proclivities, we doubt all this will satisfy you. But we can only lead a horse (or a socialist) to water.
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His salary is $171,000 (not 177). I’m assuming it’s an honest mistake, but I want to set the record straight.

1.) Length of contract on it’s own does not make it better or worse.
2.) Hamilton’s contract also did not protect the city from him leaving abruptly, which this one does. Additionally, it was an off-market hire of non-traditional CM with no experience in municpal government. Not the same.
3.) I’m not sure why the need to lower someone’s salary would be needed? Just fire them at that point. The COLA provision is capped (3%) and has a historical CPI index that has seen increase of (1.8, .3, -.5, & 1.8) over the past 4 years. You can argue that this is outrageous, but I disagree.

Aside from that… Let’s focus on the process… can you enlighten me as to why you let Dave Schmidt off of the HITA-hook for the process he followed with Hamilton? Did I miss a similar PW post about that? It was FAR LESS transparent(no input from council) than the process we followed and even resulted in a divided council at the contract approval vote.

If Mayor Maloney had chosen to follow Dave Schmidt’s “let’s go out for a beer” negotiation process, would that have been HITA approved??? Doubtful.

If you want to hear me say that I’ve heard your concerns and understand them, I have. The process was not perfect, even if the result(hiring Gilmore) was a good one. I’ll also add that, if I’m around, I’ll do my best to improve the way this process is run the next time around.

With that, I’m done on this topic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: $171,000 was a typo, which we appreciate your pointing out and which has been corrected.

1. It’s basic “Employment 101” that fixed-term rather than “at will” employment is always BETTER for the EMPLOYEE and WORSE for the EMPLOYER – which explains why at-will employment is regularly disregarded by politicians playing “Politics 101” with taxpayer money.

2. If you think trading 4 years of employment and a minimum $57,000 in severance for a 45 day notice provision is a good deal for the taxpayers, you belong on the D-64 Board with the likes of Tony “Who’s The Boss?” Borrelli and “Tilted Kilt” Tommy Sotos.

3. COLA’s are not performance-based but are merely a hedge against inflation, so they are GREAT for the employee but BAD for the taxpayers who are paying for that kind of inflation hedge without any similar hedge of their own. Basing raises on increases in the prices of gasoline, Cheerios, bedroom furniture and college tuition is management by stupidity.

Of course you “miss[ed] a similar PW post” in which we didn’t let Mayor Dave “off the HITA hook” – as is evident from our our 01.21.13 post in which we deemed “legitimate” then-alds. Sal Raspanti’s and Marty Maloney’s criticisms of Mayor Dave’s deal with Hamilton – even though Hamilton’s deal (for only 9 months, with no severance, no health insurance and no car allowance) is about as comparable to the Gilmore deal as apricots to watermelons.

Had Mayor Maloney “follow[ed] Dave Schmidt’s ‘let’s go out for a beer’ negotiation process,” we would have had the same criticism of Maloney as we had of Schmidt, even though Park Ridge taxpayers would have gotten a much better contract than this Council just saddled them with via the secretive, Star Chamber closed-session debacle.

For someone who incessantly preached “H.I.T.A” from the rooftops during Mayor Maloney’s re-election campaign, we expected a lot more out of you and this Council than this tone-deaf “process” that not only was anti-H.I.T.A. but also just plain sucked on virtually every possible level.

Via con Dios, Alderman.

I don’t know whether Mr. Gilmore is as good as Ald. Moran wants us to believe he is, or whether he will turn out to be another Scheunke, Hock or Hamilton. But a four year contract is beyond stupid. And even if the other aldermen and the mayor aren’t putting up the kind of fight Moran is, they were beyond stupid as well for going along with it.

Since you brought it up. Your 1.21.13 post that labels the Schmidt/Hamilton process critiques by Maloney/Raspanti as “legitimate” is a joke. Schmidt completely side stepped HITA and you manage to sing his HITA praises in the very next sentence. I’m not trying to drag Mayor Dave thru the mud on this, as I’m 100% positive he had the best interest of the residents in mind when negotiated. Sadly, I didn’t know him for very long, but I know I’m right on this. I trusted him.

However, you giving Mayor Dave a total pass (plus a pat on the back) and then attacking the process Mayor Maloney followed is simply and undeniably hypocritical.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So your last comment really wasn’t a mic drop? 🙂 

We didn’t give Mayor Dave “a total pass” for the initial Hamilton contract – it’s just that we didn’t barbecue him to a crisp for that 9-month, $140K, at-will, no severance, no health insurance, no car allowance deal for Hamilton that you are trying to equate with your unprecedented 4-year, $171K, minimum $57K severance (which could increase to approx. $77K), health insurance coverage, car usage deal you folks just gave Gilmore.

We do have to thank you, however, for providing us with the delicious irony of your defending an even worse process, and contract, than the one for which then-Ald. Maloney legitimately criticized Mayor Dave.

Ok fellas, you’ve both made your points. I will say that the very minimal contact I have had with Mr. Gilmore has been a refreshing change from the snarky Mr. Hamilton. Let’s let him get on with the business of running the city.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oh, Joan, don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud: We’re just having a friendly little policy debate. 🙂

EVERYBODY likes Joe Gilmore and is damn glad to have him as the City Mgr. But mindful of that Santayana quote about the lessons of history, let’s not forget how everybody (except then-mayor Frimark, who preferred another candidate that just happened to be one of his insurance clients) liked Jim Hock when he first arrived; and they also liked “the snarky Mr. Hamilton” well enough after 9 months to remove his “Acting” title and make him the real thing.

Who liked Hamilton? He was a snarky, misogynistic creep. Harsh, but true.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out the minutes of the 01.14.13 Council COW and you will read how then-Ald. Maloney said he believed ACM Hamilton “has done a great job so far,” Ald. Mazzuca said that “has done an outstanding job in a short period of time,” and Mayor Dave agreed that Hamilton “is doing a great job” – while then-ald. Joe Sweeney wanted to extend Hamilton’s contract “for another year, through May 2014.”

No mention of “snarky,” “misogynistic” or “creep[y]” – at least at that time.

Haha! It wasn’t a mic drop because it takes you over 24 hours to craft a rebuttal, before you actually posted my comment and your rebuttal simultaneously . I was beginning to think it didn’t go thru properly. FB is so much cleaner for these types of debates, but then you lose the ability to ensure that anyone who sees my comment sees yours as well. How very controlling of you.

You say the process was worse, I think it was better…not perfect but better (some council involvement VS ZERO). See you Thursday night?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, Alderman, but your comment was submitted at 6:19 p.m. yesterday while this editor was just finishing a round of golf, followed by poker, sleep, and work before getting to the research/response and posting of your comment with rebuttal at approx. 1:45 p.m. today. Even by perverting spacetime or string theory you can’t turn that into “24 hours.”

We could have hip-shot, but we prefer ready, aim, fire; or to measure twice and cut once.

“Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun”

Will there be Blue Label?

I was off by a few hours and you were off by a few grand…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our percentage of error was smaller than yours. 🙂

Yeah, men, all of them. 🙂

EDITOR’S NOTE: Guilty as charged.

Just like durinng the election Moran is acting as Maloney’s surrogate.

Moran keeps saying this is a good deal for the taxpayers but he does not explain why. The $171,000 salary does not sound that excessive but the four years is, and Moran does not say why four years is good for us taxpayers, just that he thinks it is so we should trust him.

No way.

Ald. Moran, I agree with PW and the other comments about how this four-year deal, or any multi-year employment deal, is bad for the taxpayers. The inherent advantages of public employment are so great that the only justification I can see for giving somebody even a one-year contract is if they are moving from the private sector to the public one, or the employee is moving from another state, and a one-year guaranty is reasonable consideration for such a major change.

Your comments make it sound like Gilmore would have said “no” without the four year deal. Even if I were inclined to believe you, I can’t because the whole deal was done in secret.
So for all I know your “negotiations” were nothing more than you offering Gilmore four years and $171,000 from the get go and him saying “yes.”

Now that the contract has been agreed to there is no reason why the closed session minutes and recordings should not be made public. Delayed transparency is better than none and it would still allow the Council to be held accountable for their negotiations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed, although that overlooks the fact that there was no reason for the closed session in the first place.

Hiding deliberations in closed session, taking action while the taxpayers are left in the dark, and then releasing the closed session minutes after the action has been taken is like asking for forgiveness instead of permission – just another variation on the “bad government” theme.

It seems to me that either you “get” HITA and follow it almost reflexively or you don’t. These aldermen, especially Moran, don’t “get” it or they would not have handled this Gilmore contract as they did.

Now that’s more like it PWD!!!!! Well done.



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