The Continuing Hock Contract Saga


Tonight’s City Council COW meeting is scheduled to feature the continuing saga of City Mgr. Jim Hock’s employment contract, which expired on July 13, 2009, but which is being treated as if in full force and effect while the Mayor and City Council continue to fiddle with it.

For those of you who care about this kind of stuff, Hock was hired despite then-mayor Howard Frimark’s desire that the job go to one of his insurance clients.  But even though Hock was Frimark’s second (or third?) choice, Hock still was given a sweet deal [pdf], including:

annual base salary of $165,000;
$8,500/year in deferred compensation (increasing to $10,000/year after year one);
16 vacation days, increasing to 20 days (a/k/a 4 weeks) in year 2;
a $350,000 interest free loan toward his purchase of a residence in Park Ridge, and the forgiveness of $5,000/year of that loan up to a maximum of $50,000;
an unmarked City vehicle, including gas, insurance and maintenance;
all off his moving expenses from Oak Park, Michigan;
the real estate commission and attorneys’ fees for the sale of his Oak Park condominium;
up to $12,000 of living expenses that first year until Hock moved to Park Ridge;
up to another $12,000 in expenses to maintain his Oak Park condo until it is sold; and
various other benefits.

That’s over $190,000/year just counting his base salary, deferred comp, no loan interest, loan forgiveness and car expenses.  And he isn’t even required to produce a balanced budget or any annual “profits” (i.e., surpluses) to remain employed.

We’re willing to bet there are more than a few Park Ridge residents who are qualified to do that job and would jump at that package.  And we suspect some of them could do it as well, or better, than what we’ve seen from Mr. Hock so far – especially in light of his recent giveaway of $25,000 to departing Community Development director Carrie Davis, and his $20,000+ deal for departing Public Information Coordinator Aggie Stempniak to produce The Spokeman, neither of which was brought to the Council for the required approval.

Those disclosures provoked – justifiably – the ire of both Mayor Dave Schmidt and Ald. Frank Wsol (7th Ward) at last week’s Council meeting, but got little more than a ho-hum from the other 5 aldermen (Ald. Don Bach was missing) who have consistently demonstrated their love of giving away the taxpayers’ money for no good reason and without demanding any quid pro quo return.

But another hang-up on a new Hock contract appears to be his desire to secure that sweet comp package with a 12-month severance – which amounts to no less than $165,000 for Hock not to work for the City. 

The mayor and Wsol expressed serious reservations about that deal as well. 

But leave it to that towering statesman from the 4th Ward, Ald. Jim Allegretti, to defend the 12-month severance by arguing that it will “take the politics out of the [City Manager’s] job” in ways a 6-month severance cannot. 

Allegretti insisted that “politics should happen” in City government and that the aldermen “are expected…to deal in politics.”  He didn’t come right out and say exactly who expects politics rather than good government from the folks at City Hall, other than to refer to some people who “come in and are clamoring at the podium” of the Council chambers for the Council’s attention” – and often get it.  

Acknowledging that he and his fellow politicians tend to crumple under pressure from constituents, Allegretti said the City needs a job-secure city manager to ensure that those aldermen’s “poltical will not necessarily be immediately carried out.”

In other words, we need Hock to be the good-government “adult” and prevent the Council’s political “children” from doing stupid things.

Frankly, if Hock – or any city manager – could stop our politicians from doing stupid things, he would be a bargain at twice his $190,000 or so a year.

But from what we’ve seen so far, he can’t and doesn’t seem to really want to.

And when it comes to feathering his own nest, you can bet he won’t.