Mayor casts deciding vote in hiring of police officer

Mayor casts deciding vote in hiring of police

CARLINVILLE (Aug. 23, 2018) – With a deadlock vote of 4-4, Mayor Deanna Demuzio casted the tie-breaking vote which will allow the city to hire a part-time police officer.

Councilman Cindy Campbell brought up the topic on the agenda, stating that with the resignation of Jack Wofford, the Carlinville Police Department has been working one officer short.

To protect the citizens of the city, Campbell recommended hiring a part-time officer to fill the void.

But the decision was not an easy one to reach.

Alderman Kim Heigert said that she was concerned about money with the FOIA lawsuits and other items the city is dealing with at the present moment.

“We really can’t afford to further stress our pension at this time, and I think we should table this matter ,” Heigert said. “We are spending money left and right. It’s time to tighten up and do things the right way.”

Alderman Doug Downey raised the fact that the city has a huge liability in the police pension fund in the amount of $3.7 million as of last year.

Downey noted that the amount has risen from $2.1 million when he first came aboard the council to $3.7 million today.

“Our payments are being house stripped by the costs of the rising pension funds,” Downey said. “I am no means opposed to public safety, but I think we need to seriously discuss our pension fund before it gets out of hand.”

Campbell understands the issue with the police pension and thinks it’s time for the council to come up with a plan.

“I want people to understand if you want to do a proactive plan to take a look at the hours that we have and how many shifts we have, certainly we can do a project to do that. But right now, I think it’s important to have full staff.”

Voting for the hiring of the new officer were Campbell, Sarah Oswald, Elaine Brockmeier and Joe Direso.

Against the measure were Heigert, Downey, Randy Bilbruck and Beth Toon. Demuzio casted the deciding vote for the hiring of the officer.

FOIA

Dan Schuering, the attorney handling FOIA requests for the city of Carlinville, addressed the council about the ongoing battle with several pending requests.

Recently, the attorney general’s public access counselor determined that the city violated the Edgar County Watchdog’s request to obtain public records claiming it was for commercial purposes. The city complied with the request to hand over the files.

The judge did not issue a judgment on other issues related to the FOIA, Schuering said, including whether the watchdog group was a member of the media or a non-for-profit group.

But there are other FOIA requests still out there, including two by John Kraft of the Edgar County Watchdogs.

Schuering said that he is working on getting all the cases in front of one judge instead of multiple judges handling multiple requests.

He is discussing a possible settlement proposal between the parties involved and the city, trying to resolve all five cases at the same time.

Regardless of the outcome, Toon was unhappy that the city is spending more money to resolve the cases instead of just handing over the records that the requesters have asked.

“Why wouldn’t we then, in order to save ourselves, no offense, but your costs, your fees and the fees…” Toon asked Schuering, who interrupted her question being asked.

“Because they (Watchdogs) have no interest in settling these cases and you know exactly why,” Schuering responded to Toon.

“Absolutely that’s not correct,” Toon added.

“What has kept this from being a complete disclosure of records are records that don’t exist from two alleged meetings that didn’t occur that only you seem to be concerned about,” Schuering said.

“I have not sued the city for anything,” Toon said. “However, we did vote last April unanimously to send all records to whomever has requested FOIA. It’s been done now after we went to court.”

“The mistake that has been made – you were warned last April if you waive the fees, you will live with this problem with four years,” Schuering said.

“I think if we had sent the requested documents, this would all go away,” Toon added.

“It will not,” added Schuering. “I am quite confident that these are not going away.”

“Why don’t we just don’t just send it and if we have to pay damages, figure out what we owe…,” Toon asked.

“Because if we concede those records, then we have conceded that if there was withholding, which there was not, there was willful. It is only on that basis that they get things, if they can show it is willful,” Schuering said. “We have a lawful basis for withholding records for some of the cases. We have yet to put on our affirmative defense and I’m not going to discuss that in public session.”

“It seems like a waste of taxpayers money,” Toon said.

“The waste of taxpayers money is what the Watchdogs are trying to do to the community – that’s what the waste of the taxpayers money is,” Schuering said. “Any suggestion that they are anything other than political terrorists, is just absurd. They’re not trusted advisors to anyone.”

Schuering continued to stress that it is not as simple a process as handing over records when asked to do so.

Toon asked that he explain it in executive session, which did not take place Monday night.

“I am not going to discuss the settlement proposal that we are going to make at any meeting where you are present,” Schuering told Toon. “If the council wants to fire me, they can fire me.”

“That would be a good idea,” Toon said.

Discussion was then  halted.

Other business

Placed on file under correspondence was the resignation of Kris Rosentreter as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission for the city at the end of September.

Macoupin County Cruisers have requested to hold their annual car show/school fundraiser on July 27, 2019, asking to have the interior of the square and the first block of East Main St. blocked off as per past years.

The council unanimously approved the second reading of the budget officer salary ordinance, which is $15,600 per year.

The council approved the second read of the small wireless facility ordinance.

Also approved was the upgrade of computers for the city clerk and deputy city clerk from Illini Tech Services of Carlinville.

The total amount is $3,119.96, which includes two Dell Opiplex 3050 desktop personal computers, two hardware and software packages; four level one onsite service and two basic managed service plans.

The council approved renewing an agreement with CGI Communications for a community video program which appears on the city of Carlinville website. There is no cost incurred by the city for this service.