Cerar questions payment for electoral board's legal representation

Cerar questions payment for electoral board’s legal representation

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Carlinville’s Finance Committee met for it’s monthly meeting March 13. Referring to the fees the city incurred for legal representation for the Municipal Officers Electoral Board in the hearings about Sherry Brianza’s objections to Mayor Deanna Demuzio’s nominating petition, Councilman George Cerar wanted to know why the bills from attorney Dan Schuering were paid without approval from either the Finance Committee or the City Council.

Although Committee Chair Sarah Oswald explained the city has long had a policy to pay uncontested bills as they come in to avoid incurring late fees, Cerar contended that only credit cards are paid that way.

Since the city only has one finance meeting per month, there isn’t always time for a bill to go through the Finance Committee before the due date passes. Treasurer Jody Reichmann explained, “Credit cards aren’t the only thing we get hit with a late fee,” she said. Using March as an example, Reichmann later pointed out that most bills are due between the 10th and 15th of the month and, this month, the Finance meeting isn’t until the 13th. “The amount of money we were paying in late fees every month, waiting for these to be approved. Darlene would write the checks every month and then they would sit there in the drawer. When half of them would go out, they were already past due.” Reichmann later added, “We owe the money. Are we just not going to pay them?”

Cerar disagreed, saying they wait until council approval before the bills are paid.

Oswald told Cerar that the Electoral Board voted specifically to pay those bills. “They’ve already been approved to be paid.”

Schuering represented the city in a pair of hearings and in the proceedings in the circuit court. It was previously noted that Mayor Deanna Demuzio paid the fees for her attorney, Dan O’Brien, herself.

Councilman Beth Toon expressed her belief that, since there were only two councilmen on the electoral board, they did not have the authority to approve payment for those bills.

It is determined by statute that an Electoral Board must be formed when there are objections to nominating petitions. Statute also states who is to serve on the Electoral Board. Electoral Boards serves as a separate entity from the City Council.

Oswald explained that those bills have to be paid. “The council can’t vote ‘no’ on that,” she said. “The council can’t say we’re not going to pay those bills. It was determined that we needed an electoral board and we need a lawyer and, therefore, the bills were established and need to be paid. It’s not the same as you’re talking about.”

Oswald told the committee that she wishes they council could review every bill before it’s paid, but the number of bills the city pays and the potential late fees the city could incur doesn’t make that feasible. “Some of these bills are pretty big and if you get late fees on them, then you’re wasting a lot of money.”

Reichmann added that, due to the number of bills, the pays bills almost every Friday. “These bills are pretty basic. If we get anything that’s questionable water-wise or anything with public works, then it goes back to Tim [Hasara] or wherever it goes for approval. Anyone can come in and look at bills anytime they want.”

Leonatti pointed out that every bill is seen by Reichmann prior to being paid, so none of them are paid without review.

Reichmann stressed if anyone wants to see the bills that are paid in any given week, they should come in on Thursday.

As the discussion continued, it was noted by several committee members that they don’t know of a solution, but would consider ideas.

In other business

The question was raised about why the city is being charged overtime for the second hour of a two-hour job for an emergency repair to an overhead door at the city shed.

Committee Chair Sarah Oswald questioned why the repair was considered an emergency and why was overtime charged. “We need to get than answered. To me an overhead door wouldn’t be that important,” said Oswald. “I don’t know why there was overtime at all unless that was just a mistake.”

The committee discussed the possibility that the door couldn’t be opened or closed, which may create some sort of emergency situation.

Budget Director Claudia Leonatti questioned why the cost of the repair was placed under public lands when the street department has it’s own line item in the budget. She noted that, typically, city departments pay for the buildings they use and if it’s a general use structure, such as the gazebo, then money for repairs would come out of public lands.

The committee did not approve payment of the bill and decided to look into the matter.

The board approved a motion to recommend for payment a request for reimbursement No. 7 from Carlinville and Associates, with respect to Carlinville Plaza.

In a discussion about the budget, Council Doug Downey asked of there is a line item in the budget for printing of the new personnel policy and procedures document. It was suggested printing costs would fall under miscellaneous.

City Clerk Carla Brockmeier suggested it be printed in-house since the city’s copier is large enough to handle the job.

The committee gave its approval to the Finance Committee’s portion of the budget.

In reference to refuse bids, the committee approved a motion to recommend the city accept the low bid from Flowers Sanitation.

The committee approved a recommendation to update the city’s codification books for $500. Since the Zoning Commission is considering re-working the city’s zoning code, it was noted that Zoning Administrator Steve Parr should be contacted so any zoning updates can be included.

With regard to landscaping at the square, it was noted that there is some dead grass on the square. Reseeding bids will be sought and presented to the committee for consideration.

The committee approved the minutes of the previous meeting and the monthly bills.