Hock’s Council Policy No. 8 Smells…But Not Of Chanel No. 5 (Updated 03.13.12)


Back on February 27 and again on March 1, we wrote about how City Mgr. Jim Hock’s “Labor Negotiations Guidelines” are exactly the wrong thing for the City and its taxpayers.  Those guidelines, as written, would both hamstring and gag our City officials in the upcoming negotiations with some of the City’s unionized employees. 

When it comes to dealing with the City’s unions, Hock’s been acting like he’s on their payrolls instead of drawing his $200K-plus annual compensation from the City’s taxpayers.  

First, Hock winked and nodded at Chief Mike Zywanski’s wrongheaded negotiating “Ground Rules” that drew a curtain of secrecy around the latest firefighters negotiations.  Then Hock recommended rolling over on the firefighters’ grievance that was filed to enforce the double-dip paid holiday demand, in utter disregard for the May 1, 2011 “effective date” of the new contract. 

Any doubt about whose side Hock really is on in any union v. taxpayer dispute, however, seems to have been cleared up at the February 27 Council COW meeting, when Hock reflexively branded, as an “unfair labor practice” (“ULP), Mayor Dave Schmidt’s suggestion that future collective bargaining occur in sessions open to the public – even though Hock, in typical fashion for him, couldn’t provide any legal or other precedent to support his ULP claim.     

Schmidt asked City Atty. Everette “Buzz” Hill to opine on Hock’s contention.  So far, there appears to be no word from Buzz, presumably because he’s having as difficult a time as we had finding anything in the way of statutes or court decisions that would back up Hock: our quick-and-dirty Google search, and conversations with a couple of labor law attorneys who specialize in public sector matters, turned up not even a hint of anything that would make open-session negotiations a ULP.  

Meanwhile, perhaps realizing that his bull-flop had been called, Hock has now come up with a new tactic to hamstring and gag City officials in connection with the upcoming union negotiations: he’s converted his “Labor Negotiation Guidelines” into a City Council policy – Policy No. 8 – which he wants the Council to adopt at tonight’s meeting.

Although that proposed policy is not quite as outrageous as his guidelines were (e.g., unlike the guidelines’ secrecy provisions, the policy does not require City officials to violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act), Hock has inserted revised secrecy provisions into that policy which semi-sneakily replace the “shall”s and “must”s with “should”s, effectively setting up the City for bad-faith ULP grievances by the union if the mayor or any alderman were to go public – as they are permitted to do under IOMA – about any aspects of the negotiations, such as what the unions have demanded.

We have to assume that these revisions are an intentional attempt by Hock to jackpot the City because, frankly, we’d hate to think all of us taxpayers are paying over $200K a year for somebody who would do something like this out of mere stupidity. 

So it’s time to conclude that Hock has thrown in with the unions; and that the unions, emboldened by having an ally “inside” City Hall, not only have no intention of ever taking “no” for an answer from this mayor (even if that “no” ultimately gets over-ridden by a feckless Council) but, also, now want an enhanced ability to file ULP charges against the City. 

That would explain firefighters union president Mike Isom’s comments about Schmidt in a recent TribLocal article (“Park Ridge mayor exercise [sic] veto power again over firefighters contract,” 03.09.12):

“I think he’s trying to create controversy where there wasn’t any,” Isom said.  “We’ve made multiple concessions over the years only to be lambasted.”

Not surprisingly, Isom didn’t identify any of those “multiple concessions,” or when they were made.  Maybe he didn’t think he’d get all that much sympathy from City taxpayers by claiming that a cumulative 5% raise over three years, with commensurate benefits, was a major “concession.” 

City/union negotiations shouldn’t be hostile, but make no mistake about it: they are adversarial – especially when the City finds itself in a bubbling financial stew that’s been quietly simmering for the past decade or more while previous City administrations irresponsibly spent money and made long-term financial commitments – including for regular raises and increased benefits for union employees – as if the bills would never come due.

Well, they’ve come due, even though only Ald. Rich DiPietro remains from the folks who closed their eyes and whistled while the stew simmered. 

But don’t expect DiPietro to fall on any swords if he can help it: after 16 years on the Council, he’s become a “short-timer” looking to leave next year.  Which is why he acts like he doesn’t even want to deal with the current problems, much less future ones; or to accept any accountability for previous Council failings.

But if this mayor and this City Council don’t get even more serious than they’ve recently been about managing expenses and increasing revenues, things will get a whole lot worse, starting next fiscal year when – as Schmidt pointed out in his recent State of the City address – the Uptown TIF drain on the General Fund is projected to begin its newest escalation, from the current $5.4 million indebtedness to the $9.4 million mark.

We’re guessing it’s Hock’s and the unions’ fear that the taxpayers are finally waking up to the dangers presented by all this red ink which spurred Hock to propose his guidelines, and now his new Policy No. 8.  Together, Hock and the unions may have concluded that a Council Policy is the best way to lock the City into keeping the collective bargaining process – and all the unions’ demands – hidden from public view until there’s a done deal for the Council to rubber-stamp.  And to get it done quickly, before the next round of collective bargaining begins.

Let’s see how many of the folks around The Horseshoe jump at this new chance to help Hock sell out the taxpayers…again.

UPDATE:  This matter was deferred to the March 26, 2012, Procedures & Regulation Committee meeting at the request of 2 aldermen (Maloney & Raspanti), which is a permitted Council procedure.  That was just as well, because the City Attorney had not yet completed his research into the exact nature of unfair labor practices, including (per Mayor Schmidt’s question) whether it would be a ULP for future union contract negotiations to be held in sessions open to the public and the media.

That question wouldn’t even need to be answered by the City Attorney if all the City unions agreed to open-session bargaining.  But until you see herds of pigs are doing loop-the-loops in the airspace over Park Ridge, don’t expect that to happen.

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4 comments so far

In the fourth paragraph on page two of the guidelines, it states that bargaining unit representatives may speak in front of the city council but the council members are not allowed to respond other than to ask clarifying questions. It appears that this is in place to ensure that only the union side of the argument is made public before the contract is signed. I don’t know why the council would ever agree to being muzzled like this.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You seem to be approaching this collective bargaining stuff like like (to use an old Jay McMullen term) “you think it’s all on the legit.”

As we’ve written in this post, Hock seems to have thrown in with the unions and been “phoning it in” ever since the previous Council (along with current Alds. Sweeney and DiPietro) gave him that ridiculous sweetheart employment contract with the $120K severance payment. Ask the Sweens and Richie D why they thought that was such a great deal for the taxpayers, because we don’t recall either of them articulating anything that made a thimble-full of common sense.

As part of his phone-it-in management style, Hock puts union sympathizers like Chief Z in charge of firefighters negotiations, then lets Chief Z propose “Ground Rules” designed to conceal all the details of the negotiations from the taxpayers while gagging the mayor and the Council so they can’t even talk publicly about the unions demands or the City’s offers. Hock argues that the City shouldn’t be “tipping its hand” about how high it’s willing to go on wages and benefits, like it’s some kind of secret that he and the City’s negotiators are going to use to slicker the unions (as if slickering the unions is actually a good thing, which it isn’t). And when Hock doesn’t get the traction he needs from that argument, he starts shouting “unfair labor practice!” to scare the more simple and compliant alderfolks.

That’s all it takes to give Ald. “Little Tommy” Bernick acute gastrointestinal distress and the overwhelming urge to grab his ankles – in a business-like way, of course, because he is “a businessman.” And when it comes to men and women in uniform, Ald. Joe Sweeney will pay any price – irrespective of the City’s financial condition, and using taxpayer money. Meanwhile, Ald. Rich DiPietro will do his best Rodney King impersonation and try to get along with everybody because he tends to feel strongly both ways. And Ald. Jim Smith will just…well…he’ll just continue to be (as Forrest Gump would say) “a box of choc-olates.”

By our count (although we’d love to be wrong on this), that’s four votes to muzzle, irrespective of what Alds. Raspanti and Maloney do.

Who does Hock have pictures of? Why can’t they get rid of this guy?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Who needs “pictures” when you’ve got a CONTRACT that’s about as sweet a deal as a City Mgr. in a burg as small, upper middle class, homogenous and benign as ours could possibly get. That was “the gift that keeps on giving” from the aldermopes shortly before they ran out the door last May without even standing for re-election – Jim Allegretti, Don Bach, Tom Carey, Robert Ryan and Frank Wsol – along with current Alds. Sweeney and DiPietro.

Maybe you should ask the Sweens and Richie D why they voted for that contract, especially since it saddled the City with a $120K severance payment unless Hock can be booted “for cause”; and what constitutes “for cause” isn’t all that clear.

Would negotiating contracts that the City can’t afford constitute ‘for cause’?

Would not collecting parking fines as you mentioned in previous blogs constitute ‘for cause’?

Would not coming in at breakeven or with a surplus for a number of years be considered ‘for cause’?

Would the handling of Taste of Park Ridge, over a number of years, so poorly be ‘for cause’?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not if the Council approved them. Maybe. No, especially since the Council approved those budgets. Probably not, unless it could be proved that he was “on the take” from Taste Inc., which would constitute “acts of dishonesty…in the course of his employment” under Article VII of his Contract.

And while you’re contemplating that, remember that DiPietro was one of the aldermen (along with former Alds. Allegretti, Bach and Wsol) who allegedly “negotiated” this sweetheart Contract for Hock, so it’s no surprise he thought it (and its “for cause” termination provision and big-buck severance clause) to be “fair.”

And don’t forget that Sweeney, whose “thinking” sometimes seems affected by sunspot activity, voted for that Contract on 12.20.10 despite calling it “a great contract for [Hock]” but not as good for the taxpayer; and then, on 02.07.11, he voted to over-ride Schmidt’s veto with the justification that if Schmidt could vote to give Hock a 1-year contract almost 2 years earlier (that didn’t include a severance provision), Sweeney could vote to give Hock a 28-month contract with a $120,000 severance payout.

Frankly, with “thinking” like DiPietro’s and Sweeney’s, the taxpayers probably are fortunate to have gotten away with a Contract that didn’t give Hock $120K severance for voluntarily resigning or retiring.

Don’t mention herds of pigs (altho I don’t think they are called “herds” in the aggregate) doing aerial stunts — the Tastees will claim them for entertainment! You are funny in re Sweeney’s comment and countering vote. It reminds me of when former Ald. Don Bach rebuked one of our dealerships for some manuever, saying, “I’ll never give you another nickle of mine for a car!” or something like that — and then promptly voted to give said dealership a big wad of taxpayer money. Remember?

Hock is another Tim Skanky. Plain and simple. Why can’t we get competent and ethical help at these salaries? $200K to run a $50+K budget is chump change in the private sector, but nobody in the private sector gets it for life, guaranteed. We should be able to hire better. And I don’t mean the former mayor’s Doogie Howser contender, either. And I’d like somebody to explore whether in fact neglecting to collect hundreds of thousands in parking fees when we are broke constitutes “for cause.” If it were your company, what would you call it?

EDITOR’S NOTE: In answer to your last question, we’d call it “AMF.”

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