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Orland Park approves 375% increase in mayoral salary
Nearly 100 residents crowded the Orland Park village hall to complain that the pay hike should be presented to the voters for approval and not the board members, who voted unanimously to hike the salary following two hours of public discussion and debate.
By Ray Hanania
(Note: You can read my column in the Regional News and the Reporter Newspapers this week on the aspect of the issue of the 1983 Referendum creating the part time mayoral position and establishing Orland Park as a Village Managerial system.)
Over the objections of nearly 100 mostly angry residents, the Village board of Orland Park during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday October 17, 2016, approved increasing the salary of Mayor Dan McLaughlin from $40,000 a year to 375 percent of its current level, or $150,000 a year.
(The total salary of $150,000 is 375 percent, but the actual increase of $110,000 is “only” 275 percent)
Although many residents praised the board members and the mayor, many said they were deeply disturbed that the issue was brought up so quickly and without public discussion, and that the salary change should be made by the voters.
Nearly all of the about 100 residents who packed the board room said they only learned about the details of the increase from a robocall broadcast twice during the past five days. The robocall urged residents to attend the meeting and express their opposition to the wage increase. Mayor McLaughlin and board trustees criticized the robocall saying that it was filled with falsehoods.
(The text of the robocall from my home phone answering machine is included at the end of this story.)
McLaughlin and the board distributed copies of the ordinance that spelled out some of the provisions of the increase for the first time to the public at the meeting which was held on Monday, October 17, 2016. But it took a lot of explaining to make the provisions clear.
“This is deplorable and inexcusable,” said one speaker who explained he lost his job as a result of Obama Care, the Affordable Care Act approved by President Barack Obama.
“We are hurting. It is deplorable and inexcusable for civil servants to sit up here and think it is ok to do this. This is offensive. I just can’t believe it,” he said during the public comment period after the ordinance was introduced for approval.
Trustee Carol Ruzich led the defense of the pay hike, which is unprecedented in municipal history in Orland Park and in most surrounding Chicagoland suburban communities. She criticized the robocall, which was broadcast several days ago and then again on Sunday night.
Ruzich said that the board decided to do this as an alternative to hiring two more full-time employees, a move that was recommended by Matrix Consulting Group which Mayor McLaughlin described as municipal “efficiency experts.”
The ordinance explains that the recommendation to hire two additional administrators was the result of a professional staffing study. The consultants suggested the village hire “a second Assistant Village Manager,” and an “Economic Development Coordinator.”
Ruzich and Trustee James Dodge argued in response to the community protests that Mayor McLaughlin had the skill set to do the work that the two new hires would perform, and would save the village $750,000 over the course of the next four years.
The ordinance states: “in order to achieve these significant cost savings, the Village President will engage in promoting and facilitating the economic development of the Village in order to maximize the Village’s long-term employment opportunities for residents, the Village’s commercial tax base and would generally foster economic development opportunities. In addition, the Village President will undertake a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful opportunities, in addition to resolving constituent issues;”
But residents at the board meeting were skeptical, challenging the need to hire two new high priced administrators noting the village already has a full-time village manager, a position temporarily being filled by Orland Police Chief Tim McCarthy, and two assistant village managers including Joe La Margo.
The ordinance did not include everything, though, and many resident said they were surprised by the plan. La Margo noted that the ordinance was posted four days ago for the public to view. But when you visit the village website, at www.orland-park.il.us, there is no mention of the proposed pay increase on the front page of the website and visitors have to search through the online resource.
(A complete overview of the ordinance provided by the village is included at the end of this article.)
Trustee Dodge explained that the pay increase is intended for Mayor Dan McLaughlin, “because he has the skill set we need to achieve these goals.” But the hike puts voters in a quandary. What if McLaughlin is not re-elected. McLaughlin said he was running for re-election but the election is in the Spring of next year. The wage hike will not take effect until the next mayor is sworn in.
The flaw in the argument is that if McLaughlin, who has the “skill set required” by the board to fill the shoes of the two salaried new hires, is not elected, the person who takes his place who lacks the experience the board said McLaughlin has to run the village, will still receive the record salary for the entire term of the four year mayoral term.
Dodge and the mayor also explained that the mayoral salary will revert back to the $40,000 level at the end of the next term and it must be revoted on again before the next election in 2021. Pay raise ordinances must be approved 180 before an election is held for the pay hike to take effect in the next election term. McLaughlin’s pay hike would take place the day he is re-elected in the Spring, but not before and would continue for four years.
“Every four years, this can change,” McLaughlin said.
Also not addressed is the impact of the board vote itself. Orland Park was established as a village managerial system of government in a referendum presented to voters in 1983, when McLaughlin was first elected to the board as a trustee. (He was elected mayor in 1993.)
McLaughlin said that the proposal to hike his salary has been reported on my the media in at least “seven newspaper articles.” But most residents said they only saw one, published in the Chicago Tribune on October 3, the day before it was mentioned during a carefully scripted tele-conference McLaughlin and Dodge held with residents on Oct. 4. McLaughlin said more than 2,400 people listened in to the tele-conference. But having listened to that teleconference, very little was explained about the increase and the mayor indicated that its passage was not a certainty and was up to the will of the board.
(The Regional News reporter Dermot Connolly wrote an article published on Oct. 6, 2016 about the pay hike issue. Click here to read the story.)
“This isn’t personal, Mayor,” another speaker said. “This is, though, an end-of-career pay hike for you, just before retirement. It’s a bad idea. We should see this go to a referendum where the people of Orland Park get to vote. It’s double dipping.”
Dodge said he is as frustrated as the residents are over increasing taxes, the poor economic condition of the state of Illinois, runaway pensions, and the tight economy, but he stood solidly by the pay hike proposal for Mayor McLaughlin.
More than 22 people spoke at the meeting saying they all loved living in Orland park, with many saying both the mayor and the board are “doing a good job.” But they said “sneaking this in like this is wrong.”
One speaker who identified himself as a 40 year resident of Orland Park, said, “I think this is a change in the structure of village government. and should be decided by a vote of the residents. It’s something more than trivial. It should be put to the citizens. Do we really need more development in Orland Park? … I don’t want this to become Chicago. I want to keep it as Orland Park. Give us the vote, mayor, and allow us to chose our own destiny.”
Another speaker said, “Thank goodness for that robocall because I woulda not have known about this at all.”
McLaughlin scolded residents who said they were unaware of the proposal saying that he and the village trustees meet at board meetings. “No one shows up to our budget meetings,” McLaughlin said, acknowledging that the proposal was only developed six weeks ago.
However, I wrote a column on September 30, 2015 which reported that the mayor was considering becoming a full-time mayor with a full-time salary, although at the time the mayor did not respond to questions about the rumors that were circulating among several business owners in Orland Park.
One resident who spoke said, “It is unconscionable to to take this step without taking this to the village as a whole.”
McLaughlin argued that the village has maintained the tax rate at the same level for the past 5 years. He also said the increased salary will not include health benefits and he acknowledged that although his pension from the village will increase — several residents said that instead of retiring with $30,000 a year he would retire with over $120,000 a year paid by the village — McLaughlin said that he is not receiving a pension from the Builders Association. He explained the Builders Association paid money into a retirement fund that he maintains on his own, personally.
REQUEST FOR ACTION REPORT DATE: October 17, 2016
File Number: 2016-0637
Orig. Department: File Name: Finance Department Position of Village President – Ordinance
At the September 6, 2016 Finance Committee meeting, it was requested that staff provide additional information related to the compensation and benefits of the Village President. A recent study completed by an independent consultant recommended the creation of a second Assistant Village Manager position due to the extensive growth of our community and the increasing demands for Village services and amenities. The study also identified the need for a full-time Economic Development Coordinator to promote and recruit commercial enterprises in order to enhance the future of Orland Park.
As opposed to creating two new full-time positions that demand significant salaries and benefits, adjusting the compensation of the Village President would result in significant savings to the Village in the long term. The salary for an Orland Park Assistant Village Manager ranges from $116,000 – 130,000. A survey of Chicagoland municipalities found that the average salary of an Economic Development Coordinator (or like position) ranges from a low of $51,000 to a high of $100,500. The total cost for these two positions would range from $227,000 to $291,000.
The Village would also incur approximately $30,000 per position in benefits costs. This compensation change would also allow Village residents and staff to continue to benefit from the Village President’s expertise, experience, commitment, as well as his increased involvement on a day-to-day basis. The Village President would generally cover promoting and facilitating the economic development of Orland Park in order to maximize the Village’s commercial tax base and secure quality, long-term employment opportunities for residents. In addition, the Village President would foster economic development opportunities; take a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful ventures. The learning curve period required by the additional Assistant Village Manager, as well as a newly created Economic Development Coordinator position, would not exist as the current Village President is extremely familiar with the day-to-day workings of the village, its personnel, issues and concerns. The Illinois Constitution and the Illinois Municipal Code prohibit an increase or decrease in the salary/compensation of an elected officer of a unit of local government if such increase or decrease would take effect during the term for which the officer is elected. In addition, the Local Government Officer Compensation Act provides that the compensation of elected officers of a unit of local government must be fixed at least 180 days before the beginning of the term of the officer whose compensation is to be fixed. Given that compensation must be fixed during the elected officer’s term, if health insurance benefits are to be included, the recommendation of the Village Attorney is to provide the Village President with a stipend, fixed for his/her term of office, to be used to obtain private health
BACKGROUND: President with a stipend, fixed for his/her term of office, to be used to obtain private health insurance. This stipend would be in addition to the Village President’s salary and must also be fixed by the Village Board at least 180 days prior to the commencement of the Village President’s term of office. On October 3, 2016, this item was reviewed by the Finance Committee, recommended for approval and referred to the Village Board of Trustees for consideration. The Ordinance was amended on October 17, 2016 and is attached to this item.
BUDGET IMPACT: Funding for this position will be proposed in the FY2017 budget that will be presented to the Board for formal approval at the first Board meeting of December 2016.
REQUESTED ACTION: I move to pass Ordinance Number _________, entitled: AN ORDINANCE PROVIDING FOR THE COMPENSATION AND REIMBURSEMENT OF THE VILLAGE PRESIDENT OF THE VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK, COOK AND WILL COUNTIES, ILLINOIS 371150_4 ..T AN ORDINANCE PROVIDING FOR THE COMPENSATION AND REIMBURSEMENT OF THE VILLAGE PRESIDENT OF THE VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK, COOK AND WILL COUNTIES, ILLINOIS ..
WHEREAS, Section 3.1-50-10 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-50-10) provides that the corporate authorities of a municipality may, by ordinance, fix the salaries of all municipal officers who hold elective office for a definite term, provided that said salaries may be neither increased nor diminished during the officer’s term and such salaries will be fixed at least 180 days before the beginning of the terms of the officers whose compensation is to be fixed.
WHEREAS, a professional staffing study undertaken by the Village resulted in a recommendation that there be created positions of a second Assistant Village Manager and an Economic Development Coordinator due to the extensive growth of the Village and increasing demands for Village services and amenities; and
WHEREAS, as opposed to creating these two (2) new full-time positions that would demand significant salaries and benefits, adjusting the compensation of the Village President would result in significant savings to the Village in the long term; and
WHEREAS, in order to achieve these significant cost savings, the Village President will engage in promoting and facilitating the economic development of the Village in order to maximize the Village’s long-term employment opportunities for residents, the Village’s commercial tax base and would generally foster economic development opportunities. In addition, the Village President will undertake a proactive approach in assisting local businesses, organizations and individuals with creating and establishing economic development plans and promoting the Village to new purposeful opportunities, in addition to resolving constituent issues; and
WHEREAS, to fulfill the above responsibilities, it is the expectation of the Village Board of Trustees that the Village President will devote his/her working hours annually equivalent to those of a full-time Village employee.
NOW, THEREFORE, Be It Ordained by the President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Orland Park, Cook and Will Counties, Illinois, as follows:
SECTION 1: The Village President of the Village of Orland Park elected in the year 2017 and thereafter shall receive the sum of $150,000.00 per year as compensation for service as Village President commencing in April, 2017, or thereafter, except as hereinafter provided. Except as provided in the preceding paragraph of this SECTION 1, the Village President and Board of Trustees shall, at least 180 days before the beginning of the term of office of the Village President, review and fix the compensation of the Village President. 371150_4 2 Said compensation shall be payable in bi-weekly installments.
SECTION 2: The Village President may be reimbursed for any expenses incurred by him/her in attending meetings of the Board of Trustees or in otherwise performing the duties of the office of Village President.
SECTION 3: The rate of compensation established by this Ordinance shall be effective at the time of commencement of the term of the Village President, and shall be payable commencing on the first day of the immediately succeeding month, and shall apply only to the person whose term of office commenced by virtue of his/her election or re-election after the date of adoption of this Ordinance. The rate of compensation established herein shall not apply to the Village President serving when this Ordinance is adopted unless and until such officer is re-elected after the approval of this Ordinance.
SECTION 4: All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict with this Ordinance are hereby repealed.
SECTION 5: The Village Clerk is hereby ordered and directed to publish this Ordinance in pamphlet form, and this Ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage, approval and publication as required by law.
ROBO CALL TEXT
(Transcribed automatically by Xfinity from a phone message at my home on Sunday night around 5:41 pm):
“Orland Park residence. If you heard that Mayor Dan McLaughlin plans to hike his salary to $150,000 per year. Are you sick of politicians enriching themselves with our tax dollars? Not only will McLaughlin get a 350% raise. But that will also increase his pension to over $100,000 for life, and we will be picking up the tab whether part time or full time. No politician should be making that much money off us tax payers. Attend tomorrow’s board meeting to urge the board to vote no on this pay raise boondoggle. The meeting is tomorrow October 17 starting at 7:00 PM at the Orland Park Village Center at Ravinia Avenue. Press five to opt out. Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Orland Park.”
(How I did the math on the salary hike. x = (150,000/40,000) x 100)
This post has already been read 732 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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