Christmas Comes To City Hall Tonight


Tonight’s City Council meeting is scheduled to provide early Christmas presents for two lucky recipients…at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.

One recipient is John’s Landscaping, which has provided weekly grass maintenance for City-owned medians and cul-de-sacs for the past two years.  According to the Agenda Cover Memorandum of Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim, the contract between the City and John’s cotained “an optional one-year extension” which is being exercised for $45,552.

For no good reason we can ascertain, however, that contract wasn’t attached to the memorandum – so we can’t tell whether the option for that one-year extension belonged to the City or to John’s – although it’s our experience that most such contracts like this give the option to the service recipient (i.e., the City) rather than the service provider.

We have no beef with the services performed by John’s. Our beef is with the fact that the amount of the contract and the nature of the services normally require competitive bidding. Consequently, we have to question whether Zingsheim is exercising the City’s “option” so as to end-run the bidding requirement.  And by not attaching the contract to his memo, it looks like Wayne might be trying to hide that end-run from both the Council and the public.

Not good.

The second recipient of early Christmas cheer is City Mgr. Jim Hock, whose new contract is scheduled for approval.  Section I of that contract purports to make Hock’s employment “at will” – meaning it can be terminated by the City at any time for any reason, or no reason at all.  But the very next section of that contract (Section II) turns around and gives Hock a 28-month fixed term of employment, from January 1, 2011 through April 30, 2013. 

So much for “at will” employment, unless we’re talking about the “will” of Mr. Hock.

Under this new contract, Hock keeps his $165,000 base salary, his $5,000/yr pay-down of the $350,000 interest-free mortgage the City gave him, the value of the mortgage interest payments ($10,000-15,000/yr?) he does not have to make under the interest-free loan, his City car (along with insurance, maintenance and gasoline), and 4-plus weeks of vacation.  He also gets some amount of “Deferred Compensation,” although we can’t tell if it is $833.34 or $1,541.27 per month because both numbers appear under the “Category 2” compensation provision of Section III.

If Hock gets all this compensation, he will be one of the higher paid (8th of 17) city managers in this area based on a survey Hock himself did – but only after we added in some of his “special” comp and benefits that he conveniently left out, making it appear that he is undercompensated v. his peers.  And it’s a better deal than CMs in much bigger communities like Evanston and Arlington Heights are getting.

So why is Mr. Hock so special?  We don’t know, because the “Mayor’s Executive Committee” of the City Council – the chairmen of the four standing Council committees, meaning Alds. Allegretti, Bach, DiPietro and Wsol – didn’t provide any kind of “cover memorandum” with the draft contract they negotiated, explaining why they think Hock deserves such a deal.

But perhaps the most objectionable aspect of this contract is Section VII, which ensures that if Hock is involuntarily terminated, even for poor performance or such egregious “cause” as acts of dishonesty or moral turpitude, he gets a minimum of six (6) months of severance, including one additional year for each year of service up to twelve (12) months.  Which means that if this contract is signed and Hock is involuntarily terminated the following day, he will get eight (8) months of severance – $110,000.

That’s $110,000 that the City will have to pay out in addition to whatever it has to pay Hock’s replacement.

We don’t begrudge Mr. Hock fair compensation for services rendered.  But giving him this sweet of a deal for more than two years just doesn’t seem irresponsible, it is irresponsible – especially where: (a) his comp appears to exceed that of most of his peers and most of the residents paying for his lucrative package; (b) the vast majority of Park Ridge residents don’t have anywhere close to that kind of job security and severance benefits; and (c) we can’t think of one exceptional thing he has accomplished since coming here from Michigan.

To the contrary, some of his most notable “achievements” – his proposed “balanced budget” last year that was $200,000+ in deficit, his windfall severance giveaways (to Kim Uhlig, Carrie Davis and Aggie Stempniak) that exceeded his expenditure authority, and his recent endorsement of a $6 million+ cop shop renovation/addition – are things that would come a lot closer to grounds for termination than for a new 28-month contract.

But that’s the way public employment operates in Illinois, as well as in our sleepy little town of Park Ridge.  And that’s why Illinois is broke, and Park Ridge is sliding in that direction.

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12 comments so far

Unless Hock is performing miracles behind the scenes, he should be fired because what he’s doing above the radar doesn’t justify continued employment, to say nothing of a six-figure salary.

I agree with you, Watchdog, overpaying public employees (and giving them those huge pensions) is a big factor in why Illinois is broke, and why Park Ridge is on its way.

Correcto, 3:02. I can think of at least three Park Ridge residents in their late 40s or early 50s who are out of work and could do Hock’s job every bit as good as he’s been doing it. And they’d be delighted with just Hock’s base salary!!!!!

Please don’t tell me that Hock’s contract was approved.

It was. What’s worse is how it was approved. You knew Allegretti would vote yes, because he has had his schnoz so far up Hock’s derriere that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The other vestiges of the Frimark years predictably fell into line. But by far the most disappointing yes vote was cast by Alderman Sweeney who did so just after declaring that it was a bad deal for the taxpayers. Shame on you Sweeney. That act of stupidity will cost you some votes, hopefully a bunch of them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That should make interesting viewing whenever City Staff gets around to posting the video on the City’s website. But it appears that Sweeney simply said what the other four aldermen (Bach and Ryan absent) were thinking – unless, of course, those other four are so far gone that they actually thought this ridiculous contract for Hock is a good deal for the City.

Sweeney was pathetic. He actaully said the contract was a good deal for Hock and a bad deal for the city but then he voted for it because of how hard the Mayor’s Executive Committee worked on it. Ha! Gimme a break.

Allegretti had the audacity to beef at the Mayor for asking questions about the contract and for not going to their meetings where they worked so hard. And why would he go? So he could be told MYOB?
Allegretti actually said they were doing work they didn’t have to do… he must have forgotten that they pulled the negotiations from the Mayor because they were unhappy about how he was handling the matter. That’s OK… people disagree. But hey, then to go and completely bend over for Hock was letting the pendelum swing a little far the other way… dontcha think?

As a value proposition Hock’s contract is a loser for the city. But hey… it’s a good deal for him right Alderman Sweeney?

Irony or Ironies…..who picked Sweeney??? Hmmmmmm????

EDITOR’S NOTE: Schmidt. So you’re point is?

Guess the track ball that Schmidt is using to control Sweeney’s brain has some lint on it, huh 2:02pm??

Stating that something is a lousy deal for the City (read: his 37,000 neighbors) and then voting for it anyway? Are you sure you’re talking about Sweeney and not Bach? Or is there some Serpent’s Egg-type stuff being piped into the room that turns them all into numbnuts?

My point is?? My point is that it is ironic.

Maybe you think that it is trivial of me to even mention it, but you do see the irony, don’t you?? I mean the story line typically Mayor Dave (wearing the while hat) fighting the evil (black hats) council that was basically brought into being by the REALLY EVIL Frimark. So we get to scream and rail at the council and think/say “gee they are not letting Dave get anything done!!!” Only in this case, it does not fit the story line (hence the irony). One of the posters talks about Sweeny loosing votes. You know how many votes he has recieved so far?? Just 1, that being from the Mayor. Of all the people in his Ward with whom he had relationships and discussions, this is the person he selected to fill his seat. I mean normally at this point we go into the “he donated money to Frimarks campaign” or “he was hand picked by Frimark to run” story line only we cannot do that this time because he was picked by the guy he is contradicting.

So again, my point is very simple. It is ironic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sweeney was the person Schmidt chose from among (as we recall) those six 1st Ward residents who affirmatively sought that appointment. He is not listed as a contributor to Schmidt’s campaign, either before or after his appointment. Frimark chose Allegretti from among several 4th Ward residents who sought appointment to his vacated aldermanic seat. Allegretti had contributed to Frimark’s campaign a few months before his appointment, although neither Frimark nor Allegretti had the integrity to disclose that fact in the course of his appointment process; and Allegretti made another contribution to Frimark’s campaign shortly after his appointment.

Allegretti consistently voted Frimark’s way, while Sweeney has been a bit of a wild card.

If you want to call all that “ironic,” have at it.

Sweeney’s failures as an alderman reflect on Schmidt’s judgment and Schmidt’s lack of ability to work with even his own appointed people. Schmidt’s a failure.

Yes I want to call it ironic. In fact, it is a text book example of ironic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We thing “incongruous” is more accurate, but make yourself happy.

Geez 1117, excuse us all for not being as perfect as you. One or two bad votes do not make Sweeney a failure. He has been the most consistent fiscal conservatives on the Council, although now he is only “fairly” consistent. He messed up here, bad. But overall he has been pretty solid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Try as we might, we can’t square Sweeney’s professed fiscal conservatism on things like the community group giveaways with his spendthrift ways on the Hock contract or the current facade improvement applicants. That doesn’t make him a “failure,” but being the “most fiscal conservative” alderman on this Council is definitely the tallest midget in the circus.