Hock’s Negotiation Guidelines A “How Not To” (Updated 02.28.12)


There are a few matters of interest on tonight’s City Council COW agenda, including the “transparency” of the backgrounds and qualifications of all those appointed City officials sitting on boards, commissions and task forces.  That’s one that’s near and dear to our hearts, as our posts on 01.17.12 and 02.20.12 confirm. 

But a more immediate and, arguably, more consequential matter on the agenda is billed as “Labor Negotiation Guidelines.”  City Mgr. Jim Hock has prepared (with the help of temporary “HR Consultant” Mike Suppan) a document by that name filled with a lot of typical HR feel-good mumbo-jumbo that looks as if it was designed to bamboozle the simpler-minded folks around The Horseshoe while keeping the actual negotiations themselves away from the mayor and the aldermen.

If the Council approves these guidelines, it will be demonstrating that it learned nothing from the Hock/Fire Chief Zywanski/atty. Dina Kapernekas fiasco of the just-resolved firefighters union contract, which we addressed in several posts, including “The City’s Three Amnesiacs…Or Three Liars” (05.19.11)“One Bite At A Time” (05.23.11) and  “Firemen Renege, Hock Conceals, Council Hides, Taxpayers Pay” (1207.11).


Let’s start with Hock’s provision (in paragraph 3) that “[t]he Human Resources Manager and at times, any labor attorney approved by the City Council will represent the City at the negotiation table.”  That’s eerily similar to the model that gave us the Chief Z/Kapernekas tag team and the decidedly taxpayer-unfriendly firefighters contract. 

And if that paradigm isn’t enough, by itself, to justify nuking those guidelines, let’s try the fact that Hock just appointed a new Human Resources Manager, former Community Preservation & Development Manager Cathy Doczekalski, who appears to have no meaningful human resources education, training or background experience – much like her predecessor, who recently resigned her City position after a botched attempt to manipulate salary brackets to increase the compensation of the non-union City employees.

That means the City’s negotiating team will be headed by someone woefully inexperienced in such negotiations.  But it gets worse. 

Hock wants the negotiations to be “confidential” – meaning that the mayor and the aldermen cannot “publicly discuss any contract issues…unless a formal declaration of impasse has been made.”  And just to be sure that such information stays secret, Hock includes a provision that not only permits closed session discussions of the negotiations, but that also requires that such “closed session discussions must remain confidential” – which sure sounds like a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act to us!

But that’s indicative of the way Hock, and most bureaucrats, view “transparency”: if there’s a way to get around it so that the public remains in the dark, so much the better.   Just ask D-64 Board president John Heyde, who reportedly has the teacher union negotiations so locked down that no D-64 board members other than he and fellow “negotiating team” member Pat Fioretto are permitted even to attend the negotiations.

And when it comes to labor negotiations, the last thing the unions want is to have all their demands displayed before the taxpayers in real time.  That might put a smudge or two on the angelic personae they all try to cultivate in the public’s mind, whether they be “first responders” or “for the kids”-committed teachers.

That’s why we previously proposed (in “One Bite At A Time”) that all City labor negotiations be conducted in open meetings subject to full public scrutiny:

Let the City decide, as part of its very public budget process, what wage and benefit terms are affordable and in the best interest of the taxpayers for the coming year, and only for the coming year.  The City should then publicly offer those exact terms to the union representing the particular bargaining unit; and then let that union make its case, equally publicly, to those same taxpayers if it thinks its members deserve more than what the City offered. 

That way, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much which bureaucrat is chosen to “lead” the City’s negotiating team (except, of course, for the irredeemable Chief Z), although that team still should have at least one elected City official – either the mayor or a capable alderman – to represent and be accountable to the taxpayers in the ways most bureaucrats can’t or won’t. 

But for now, the City Council should tell Hock in no uncertain terms that his “Labor Negotiation guidelines” are non-starters so long as they contain anything that would prevent City officials from treating the details of all future negotiations like an open book.

Or, better yet, like an open City meeting video.

UPDATE:  Listening to Hock last night defend his “guidelines,” it was difficult to tell whether he is totally clueless or a shameless dissembler. 

Either he still doesn’t understand the workings of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, especially the “closed session” provisions, or he’s so concerned about secrecy that he doesn’t care about violating IOMA – which observing his “guidelines” would definitely do.  And, interestingly enough, whenever the discussion moved in the direction of opening up and shedding more light on the negotiations process, Hock would try to stop it by chirping “unfair labor practice” (“ULP”) – as if he were a trained parrot…perched on the shoulder of a union negotiator. 

Or like the little boy who cried “Wolf!”

Query for Mr. Hock: If conducting collective bargaining in an open forum in front of the public really is a ULP, then why do you need “guidelines” that expressly provide for all these confidentiality requirements?  Wouldn’t the “guidelines” actually give the unions the basis for a ULP claim where currently there is none?

Fortunately, Mayor Schmidt called Hock on his ULP invocations and requested the City Attorney to look into exactly how much open-ness could be applied to negotiations without the City’s committing a ULP.  We can’t wait to hear Buzz Hill’s answer(s).

To read or post comments, click on title.

3 comments so far

It is incredible to me that Hock is proposing to handle future negotiations exactly the same way he handled the fire union negitiations. This guy acts as if he wants to get fired or alternatively, as if he knows the aldermen have no balls OR brains.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once the previous Council gave Hock that unnecessary contract with the ridiculous “without cause” severance payment, he knew that he had the City over a barrel. And we’re guessing he’s doing just enough to avoid a “for cause” termination, betting that at least 3 aldermen won’t have the globes to launch him “for cause.”

Are these guidelines requested by the Mayor and / or council, or was this Hock’s initiative? Don’t you suspect that this is a working draft document and not final?

EDITOR’S NOTE: from the sound of Hock’s comments, this is his baby; and if he could have his way, it would be approved as is. Therefore, not a “working draft.”

Don’t the Mayor and the City Manager talk before these meetings? Couldn’t the attorney have reviewed this issue before going to the meeting? It seems like everyone is unprepared.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hock’s “guidelines” speak for themselves, and they were discussed last night in open session rather than in closed session, like these things used to be discussed by previous Councils under the guise of the IOMA exception for “collective negotiating matters….” So that’s the only reason we know about it and about Hock’s attempt to lock down negotiating information – in much the same way as the D-64 Board (John Heyde, pres.) and Administration has locked down all information about the teachers union negotiations.

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