A Positive Step In City Staff Compensation


As we move all too quickly into the second half of summer, the attention of many residents is shifting to vacations (now that most kids’ summer sports schedules are ending), and even to the resumption of school.

That means a lot less attention will be paid to what goes on with our local governmental bodies.  Which makes it a dangerous time for taxpayers…and their pocketbooks.

Fortunately, one potential costly problem has been eliminated now that the “Acting” adjective has been removed from City Manager Shawn Hamilton’s title.  And one longstanding bad precedent has been abandoned, at least temporarily, in the process.

The “bad precedent”?

The kind of multi-year, fixed-term contract that was foolishly given to former city manager Jim Hock.  Both he and his predecessor, Tim Schuenke, were handsomely rewarded by a collection of irresponsible and profligate mayors (Wietecha, Marous and Frimark) and aldermen (2000 through April 2011) who inexplicably acted as if mediocre-to-terrible performance somehow deserved escalating salaries and benefits.

By the time he retired from the City in 2008 – after helping engineer most of the Uptown TIF giveaways to the developer, but before the full extent of the damage done by those giveaways was well known – Schuenke was pulling down over $179,000 in salary, which our then-mayor and aldermen jacked up a whopping $12,000 (from $167,000) in his last two years on the job, also goosing up his pension.  Hock’s base salary, on the other hand, remained at $165,000 for his four year stint prior to being sacked last year.

So Hamilton’s new salary of $155,000 is almost a bargain when measured against his predecessors, especially since he is not getting the $350,000 interest-free loan, a City vehicle, or the six-figure severance Hock received.

Hamilton’s salary might even have been lower if Ald. Marc Mazzuca had his way.  Mazzuca wanted Hamilton’s compensation to be benchmarked against the federal government’s civil service pay scale, which would have put Hamilton’s salary $20-30,000 lower.

Mazzuca was a little vague on why City employees should be benchmarked in that fashion.  And as Mayor Dave Schmidt noted, that kind of salary would have made Hamilton the lowest-paid city manager among comparable north/northwest suburban communities, and put his salary only slightly above his subordinates despite the significantly greater responsibility and accountability.

That’s just another one of the consequences – it’s called “wage compression” – of continually raising union and non-union wages for reasons unrelated to either individual employee performance or a measurable economic benefit to the City.

But the real benefit to the City of Hamilton’s “deal” – negotiated by Schmidt and recently approved by the “new” Council – is that it’s an employment-at-will arrangement, which is the generally-accepted standard of employment for the vast majority of Illinois employees.  And there are none of those outrageous benefits lavished on Hock, like a $350,000 interest-free mortgage loan and the $110,000+ severance.

Hopefully this will establish a new precedent for future hires of city managers and senior staff.  Heck, maybe it will even catch on with mayors, presidents, councils and boards of surrounding communities, who seem to be as boneheaded and irresponsible with their taxpayers’ money as our former elected officials were with ours.

And the “at-will” nature of Hamilton’s employment is important in view of his uneven performance during his “Acting” year, including bedeviling lapses in judgment and dropped balls that are simply unacceptable for a city manager making this kind of money – some of which we have identified in our posts of 06.06.13 and 06.20.13.

We still are optimistic that Hamilton can raise his game and become a real asset to this community, rather than someone who can merely clear the exceedingly low performance bar set by his predecessors.  Most of that optimism, however, is derived from the more exacting demands that we expect to be placed on him by Schmidt and the new aldermen.

Whether Hamilton has the smarts and the spine to hold his own subordinates to more exacting performance standards remains an open question.  So far, we haven’t seen that or heard it.  We also haven’t seen or heard the kind of hard-nosed, tight-ship management ideas we expected from a guy who was hired in large part because of his private-sector business background.

But at least Schmidt and the Council have brought a welcome dose of reality to City Manager compensation.  Now its up to them – especially Mazzuca and those other aldermen who have over-ridden Schmidt’s vetoes of previous arbitrary, non-merit based raises for both union and non-union City staff – to keep the momentum going.

And it’s up to Hamilton to prove he’s worth what he just got.

To read or post comments, click on title.

6 comments so far

More Watchdog propaganda for Schmidt and your Teabagger agenda.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor prefers a tea infuser to a tea bag.

Beyond that, we can’t seem to find an objective, consensus-based definition of “Teabagger,” which makes ascertaining the specifics of a “Teabagger agenda” even more problematic.

As for propagandizing for Mayor Schmidt, after his getting 62% of the vote in April we doubt he needs our help.

Teabaggers agree with Reagan that government is never the solution, it’s the problem. Teabaggers also believe the public is safer in the hands of private corporate interests than in the hands of elected government officials. Teabaggers believe most of all that no public monies should be used to solve problems if it is at all possible to convince the electorate that they should be honored to go it alone.

I think most if not all Teabaggers would proudly concur with this description.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions vary, but we doubt it.

What is so funny to me is how you use both sides of the fence as it fits your own position.

On one issue (teachers) the PR residents are portrayed as almost poor but on another (flood control) they have plenty of money to buy flood control systems.

At one point on salary issues you hammer on about what the average PR resident earns to portray how “overpaid” union employees are and yet with this guy (after correctly beating him up and questioning his competence on many issues and his own actions) you compare his salary to Hock (6% reduction yeah!!!!!)and call it almost a bargin…..give ne a break!!!!!

So a teacher on the job for 20+ years and doing a good job making 80-90K (I know for 9 months a year) is an assault on the republic but a CM who has done an iffy job at best and has been on the job for a short period getting 155K is a bargin?!?!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Either you don’t read this blog regularly, or you aren’t understanding what you are reading.

We don’t believe we’ve said that all local unionized public employees are “overpaid.” We have, on the other hand, said that many teachers and school administrators are “overpaid,” especially given their roughly 8-month work year; and we have regularly objected to across-the-board, non-performance based increases in compensation for any and all public employees.

That has absolutely nothing to do with whether the average/median Park Ridge homeowner can afford the $2-3,000 for a sewer check valve – other than to the extent the constantly increasing taxes paid to D-64 and D-207 (over 2/3 of the average property tax bill) make that $2-3,000 a bit less affordable.

Compared to proven foul balls like Schuenke and Hock, Hamilton is “almost a bargain” at $155,000. But comparing what amounts to the CEO (Hamilton) of a $65 million/year (budget) City to a “teacher on the job for 20+ years and doing a good job making 80-90K” – which annualizes out to $106-$120K if you give teachers credit for a 9-month work year – is silly, even without getting into the specifics of how D-64 determines who’s “doing a good job.”

When the CM retires he won’t have the annualized final 4 years of his salary to keep the rest of his life that is highly subsidized by the taxpayers.

Also, they can fire Shawn tomorrow without financial impact to the city. What happens if there is a tenured teacher that is below average?

Anon 612: See the difference? Go check with one of the union hacks to see how you should respond.

“Also, they can fire Shawn tomorrow without financial impact to the city”.

Great thought but look at how it actually worked our. The guy gets hired at about double his old salary and (by PD’s account, not mine) does a marginal to flat out bad job. You can go back to old posts written by PD and/or look at this one where it is written that they have seen no evidence of “smarts or a spine” (again not my words). So what does he get for this effort??? 155K per year!!!! Hurrah for accountability!!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: “How it actually worked out” is that Hamilton – while doing those stupid and disappointing things we’ve pointed out – is a substantial improvement over his predecessors, and at a lower salary with less benefits.

And if the fact that he’s making substantially more than he made at his prior job is your hang-up, that can be attributed to the fact that he is the CEO of a governmental body more than double the budget of his past employer.

You only bolster my point. You cry for accountability but this guy does “stupid and disappointing” things and gets 155K. You chose to gloss over the MANY thing that YOU pointed out and instead compare him to his predecessor. 7:50, tell me what would happen in your and my non union hack world if this was our performance. What would our bosses do if we did stupid and disappointing things?

You also go on about the median income of PR residents and how that compares to teachers. Yet Hamilton for this “stupid, spinless, disappointing” performance is making WAY more then the median PR income. Based on your comments about what Hamilton makes I guess that means you think his performance and his position are “above” the median PR resident.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We hope you are just trying to make the best arguments out of bad facts, because we would be concerned if you really believed your arguments were sound.

We have “gloss[ed] over” nothing, which is why we included the references to our posts criticing specific mistakes made by Mr. Hamilton. While those mistakes are unacceptable and would have drawn much harsher rebukes from this editor than anything Hamilton received from Mayor Schmidt and the Council – at least publicly, which is how bad performance of highly-paid public employees SHOULD be discussed – we stand by our position that his overall performance is better than his two most recent predecessors, both of whom were paid substantially more than him.

Hamilton is the City’s CEO/COO responsible for a $60+ million budget. So, yes, that puts his duties and responsibilities far beyond those of the “median” Park Ridge job-holder. So even factoring in his somewhat disappointing performance on specific issues to date, we believe he can reasonably bbe viewed as earning the salary he is receiving.

If he continues to make the same gaffes we have called him out on during his first year, however, our view of this issue will be less tolerant; and, thanks to this mayor and this Council, the at-will, no severance terms of Hamilton’s employment will give the City the ability to deal with Hamilton accordingly.

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