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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008 09:14 am

Hard look

Council Republicans want more details about the city’s newest hires

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Ald. Debbie Cimarossa
PHOTO BY DUSTY RHODES
Untitled Document Undeterred by this month’s hiring freeze veto, Republican aldermen continue to keep employee head count and salaries at the forefront of the city budget discussion. They’re taking an especially hard look at one document that names all of the people hired by the city of Springfield from October 2007 through January 2008. More than half of the 45 listed positions are police and firefighters, but aldermen say they’re interested in talking about some of the temporary employees and their salaries. According to the new hire list, two of the newest temps work in the public-works department, one earning nearly $23 and the other almost $30 an hour. These figures seem high for short-time employees, says Ward 7 Ald. Debbie Cimarossa, who now wants each temporary position and its attached salary broken down in the city’s proposed 2009 budget. Currently, the budget includes only the total amount of temporary salaries paid out yearly by each department. “If we have 100 temporary jobs, where are they located and what are they doing — that’s what everyone wants to know,” she says. “They can hide people and salaries in temporary money, and it looks like that’s what they’re doing.”
Not only are Cimarossa and the other aldermen investigating the salaries of temporary workers, she says, but they’re also asking a lot of questions about full-time new hires that came with steep price-tags. Several — including Rick Shelton,  the city’s new horticulturist — are earning more than $20 an hour. Shelton, who is married to the mayor’s executive assistant, was hired in October and makes nearly $23 an hour. Matthew McLaughlin, the $24-an-hour assistant zoning administrator hired in January, became a topic of last week’s public-works budget hearing. Aldermen heard that he was brought in to support the department’s zoning administrator and deputy zoning administrator. Another new hire, David Fuchs, is paid nearly $23 an hour to work as an administrative assistant for the police department. Fuchs filled the position as a civilian in October after a police officer who was performing the job was assigned to different duties. The council’s Republicans contend that controlling positions and salaries may be the only way to sidestep the mayor’s veto, but Ernie Slottag, the city’s communications director, says this may only lead to more financial trouble. “If they do routine city services, we need to fill the spot,” Slottag says. “It costs more to go without hiring someone, and it could save in overtime that we’d have to spend if we didn’t fill it.”
Other veteran aldermen, such as Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz, a Democrat, have sided with the city and identify hiring as strictly the mayor’s responsibility. Kunz says he has no reason to doubt that the mayor fills necessary positions or pays employees the appropriate salaries. “I’ve served under two mayors, and I never once questioned who they hire or why they hired them,” Kunz says. “I’m not about to start now.”

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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