Tuesday's Common Council meeting focused on employment contracts, job descriptions, and restructuring of the city's Finance Department. Included with this agenda item were changes to the Director of Administration's contract and job description, currently held by Mark Luberda, changes to the Director of Finance & Treasurer position, currently held by Cal Patterson, and the creation of a new position in the Finance Department. For the past several months, the city has been looking into methods to fulfill the finance obligations that were being done under both the Director of Finance & Treasurer position.
When 2011 kicked off, Patterson served in the capacity of being Franklin's Director of Finance & Treasurer, something he has been doing for many years, of which he was closing in on retirement, and around mid-2011 publicly announced his intentions of resigning. Since the city had no gameplan for what to do upon his retirement, the Mayor and staff worked with a willing Patterson for a new contract and restructuring of the Finance Department that would allow Patterson certain duties. This new structural format, which received a lot of debate and questions, was approved by the Council in the Fall of 2011. The result has Patterson remaining onboard part-time as Treasurer, and the city would begin seeking a new full-time Director of Finance. The new director, upon hire, would have Patterson as a mentor. Patterson would stay onboard until mentoring was complete and then retire from the city with a nice benefits package. When it would be all said and done, the taxpayers and leaders of the city would be blessed with a new Director of Finance, of whom likely would receive the Treasurer duties.
After months of seeking and interviewing candidates for the Director of Finance position, the topic came back to the Council for further discussion or for what I'll call "Plan B", since the city couldn't find anyone for the position.
Plan B, which was approved by the Council Tuesday night, calls for Patterson to be a part-time Treasurer, of which he'll report to Luberda's office. Luberda, in turn, will lose oversight of the Planning Department to Mayor Taylor and instead be given oversight of the Finance Department. This arrangement will be in place at minimum until December 31st, 2013. Due to the changes, modifications to two contracts were required - Patterson's and Luberda's.
There has been a lot of political maneuvering that resulted in the new contracts that have the following:
- Patterson will remain the city's Chief Financial Officer and will serve as both Director of Finance and Treasurer but will do so on a part-time basis. He will have the duties to supervise the new, full-time hire and will report to the Director of Administration instead of Mayor Taylor directly. Every pay period he'll receive 3.08 hours of vacation time. Furthermore, his tenure of being a part-time employee doesn't diminish his pension plan - the years he was a full-time employee are still counting. In addition, upon his retirement the contract OKs Mayor Taylor, or any future Mayor for that matter, with or without Council approval, to seek Patterson's guidance on financial matters at a rate of $75/hr. The Mayor has the ability to do this outreach for as long as Patterson receives his retiree health benefits...so essentially until Patterson passes away. Due to this, I doubt we will ever see Patterson out of the picture for the city's finances until such an event occurs.
- Luberda's contract is much more interesting. Not only is he being paid slightly more for doing duties that technically he does anyways (the Director of Administration already oversees city department issues throughout the year), but his job situation is much more cozy. Every six months, Luberda will receive a 1% raise in pay from taxpayers. In addition, if Luberda decides to leave the Director of Administration position for whatever reason, including being fired, the taxpayers are on the hook for his health insurance plan as well as 6 months of pay that would have been received while working for the city.
Honestly, it's a bit upsetting that the Council voted 4-1 in favor of such contracts, especially Luberda's. In the private sector, if an employee is fired with just cause they typically lose any benefits or perks, and get no severence. The fact that taxpayers would be paying for Luberda's health insurance plan plus an additional 6 months of paychecks even if he was fired from the city frustrates me deeply.
The aldermen who voted in favor of the contracts were Common Council President Taylor and Aldermen Schmidt, Skowronski and Solomon. Unlike her colleagues, Alderwoman Wilhelm varied her votes. She abstained from voting on Patterson's contract and job description, citing concern that Alderman Olson wasn't present at the meeting to provide insight and a vote on them, voted YES for approving the job description and to have the city seek out the new Deputy Finance Director position, and NO on Luberda's revised contract and job description. Wilhelm's abstention on Patterson's contract was important, because had Patterson's contract and job description been halted via another alderman joining her, the other two actions wouldn't have been necessary. Wilhelm carried the perspective that Patterson's contract and description has no long-term solution and has a full-time employee being overseen by a part-time employee, which doesn't bode well for the new hire. Failure to obtain additional abstention or NO votes on the Council resulted in not solving the problems in the Finance Department while putting in stronger contracts for two city employees.
I would like to see one (or more) of the aldermen who voted in favor of these contracts issue their right of reconsideration of their vote at the next Council meeting. The taxpayers of Franklin shouldn't be forking over such amounts of money when aldermen claim we have no funds to work on a variety of issues taxpayers view with higher priority.