Going Into Hock For New City Manager?


Every so often local government provides us with a neat, easily-understood object lesson on how the politicians and bureaucrats who are supposed to be representing our interests and wisely managing our tax dollars can spend them in ways that they would never do with their own money.  Today’s lesson is the hiring of our new City Manager, James Hock. 

As you will recall, Mr. Hock was hired after Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark’s first choice for the position – an insurance client of his, and the son of his old friends and clients – withdrew his name from consideration, purportedly (according to Frimark) because “the evil blogs” suggested that those business and personal relationships might be playing a role in his selection.  Then Frimark, in announcing Hock’s hiring, inexplicably stated in a public meeting that Hock was not his first choice.

So maybe Frimark was trying to make amends with Hock in negotiating the new city manager’s compensation package.  Either that or we have further evidence that Frimark thinks the City’s money is printed by Parker Bros. instead of the U.S. Treasury – because the package Hock is receiving (as reported in yesterdays Park Ridge Herald-Advocate: “City manager James Hock to start job July 14,” May 29) will put him a lot closer to Boardwalk and Park Place than most of the residents he will be serving. 

His starting base salary is $165,000, which is healthy but reasonable for what amounts to a chief operating officer of a $50 million a year “business.”  We must point out, however, that this base salary is $5,000 more than what the City advertised for the position.  But it’s only when you get past that base salary and into the other terms that things start to get interesting.

First off, the City (or, more accurately, we the taxpayers) are giving Hock an interest-free loan of $350,000 for housing which – if he uses all of it – will effectively put an extra $20,125 per year in his pocket by virtue of not having to pay the interest that he would otherwise owe on a $350,000 mortgage for 30 years at 5.75%.  And because the City will be forgiving Hock’s repayment obligation on that loan at the rate of $5,000 per year for up to 10 years, those two deals boost his first year pay to approximately $190,000. 

Next comes a $10,000 per year payment that the City will make toward Hock’s retirement, which pushes the total to a nice round $200,000.  Hock will also get a city-purchased vehicle, plus insurance, maintenance and gasoline.  Let’s put that figure at $9,000 per year ($350/mo for the car, $100/mo for insurance, and another $300/mo for gas).  That takes him up to $209,000. 

To aid in his transition from Michigan to Illinois, Hock will receive an additional $2,000 per month in “living expenses” for up to six months, and another six months worth of payments until Hock’s home in Oak Park, Michigan, is sold.  So if he maxes out on either of those two perks, he will get another $12,000, which brings his first year’s income up to $221,000. 

And when he sells his current home in Oak Park, the City will pay his broker’s commission and attorneys’ fees.  Oak Park’s median home value is approximately $144,000, so the commission and attorneys’ fees on that sale might run around $8,000.  That pushes Hock’s year one compensation package up to $229,000 with nary a “performance” incentive or requirement in sight, which sure seems like a top-shelf compensation package to us – and both a nice bump up from what he was making in Oak Park [pdf] and a pretty big jump from the $160,000 at which the City advertised the position.

He will also get 16 days (a/k/a, 3 weeks and a day) of paid vacation that first year, which increases to 20 days (a/k/a, four weeks) in year two.  And let’s not forget the contract clause barring the City from making any disparaging comments about him in the event he is terminated (we’re going to call that the “Caudill Clause,” after the similar term that was inserted in the separation agreement between the City and our former Chief of Police).

Now maybe Hock will be an exceptional city manager and earn every single dollar of that generous comp package.  But one thing still troubles us: How did this deal actually get done?

Under Section 3-6-5 of the City’s Municipal Code [pdf], the City Manager “shall receive compensation in such amount and manner as the Council shall fix from time to time in the annual budget.”  But we can’t seem to find anything on the City’s website about the amount of compensation budgeted for the City Manager during this fiscal year, nor anything in the agendas or minutes of recent Council or committee meetings indicating that the Council authorized this kind of contract. That suggests to us that things may not have been done strictly by the numbers.

So while we welcome Mr. Hock and hope that he earns all our hard-earned money he’s being paid, we have to wonder if this is yet another “sweetheart deal” by Mayor Howard and his Alderpuppets?

4 comments so far

Are they grossing Mr. Hock up for the taxes on all the extra compensation-the loan forgiveness and the interest on the below market loan and the car and gas and insurance and extra pension money-too?

Though he may prove to be a worthy city manager, it is outrageous to pay an unproven talent that kind of money when the list of problems in this city that need to be fixed and require tax money to do it is so extensive. This mayor and some of our aldermen’s incompetence is staggering and we the taxpayers are paying the price. This mayor cannot leave office soon enough.

Now I realize why Mayor Frimark is able to do all these deals: Every time he “negotiates” on behalf of the City, he just keeps on raising the offer until the other side can’t refuse. (Is Frimark Italian?)

This city mgr. job was listed at $160,000, and Howard bids it up to $229,000. That sounds a lot like what he tried to do with the insurance building on Garden street, where he wants a new city appraisal because he says the original one was too low. And from what I recall, his negotiating skills were also on display with Exec. Office Plaza and the Napleton deal.

Throw money around like that and you don’t need to put a horse’s head in somebody’s bed.

what a great deal! only a few years ago i ran a $60 million private sector business, had full p & l responsibility, and made only slightly more than that. i wonder if he also gets a blackberry, a computer, and a conference (vacation) trip or two besides.

and like almost all government jobs, all he has to do is keep it is not screw up.

If he can’t prove himself to be a hell of a lot better than Schuenke within the first three months, fire his butt.

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