Commissioner Dan Novak voted against adopting the annual salary scale at the April 22 Forest Park Village Council meeting, claiming that the newly-elected board should “have a say.”

The negative vote, a relative rarity for the Village Council, was one of two Novak cast at the meeting.

Novak and Commissioner Joseph Byrnes were re-elected April 2, while Commissioners Rachell Entler and Tom Mannix and Mayor Anthony Calderone did not run again. Novak and Byrnes, along with new Mayor Rory Hoskins and new Commissioners Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd will be sworn in at the May 14 Village Council meeting.

Following a 45-minute closed session April 22, the council voted 4-1 to waive the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) hiring freeze and hire a full-time public works employee and 4-1 to approve the annual salary schedule with Novak casting the negative votes.

Prior to casting each negative vote, Novak explained the reasons for his actions. He said his vote on waiving the hiring freeze and hiring the public works employee was in opposition to the council onboarding process. He said his opposition to the salary scale was due to the timing of the action.

The salary scale is approved annually and covers salaries for officials and employees not covered by union contracts for the following fiscal year, which runs from May 1 of the current calendar year to April 30 of the following year. Although it should be approved prior to the end of the current fiscal year, village officials have in the past approved it after May 1 with increases paid retroactively. This was done as recently as last year, when the salary scale was approved in June. In 2018, village officials explained the delay was due to ongoing negotiations with union employees and their desire to tie salary increases for nonunion employees to those represented by unions.

“Let the new council have a say,” Novak said after the meeting. “We don’t always approve the salary scale before May 1.

“I support every employee but I believe in merit raises as opposed to those that are across the board. For fiscal year 2019, the newly elected officials should have a say in it.”

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the salary scale increases average 2 percent, which is in line with increases received by employees under the contracts with Teamsters Local 705, which represents public works employees; Automobile Mechanics Local 701; Firefighters Local 2753; and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3026, which represents clerical workers. Police officers represented by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 211 continue to work without a contract. The previous contract expired April 30, 2018. 

Regarding his negative vote on the public works hiring, Novak said after the meeting that he thinks the process “is wrong.” He said the current process allows the department head, in this case, the director of public works, to “hand-pick” a candidate for hiring with approval of the elected commissioner overseeing that department, in this case the commissioner of public property.

“Working for the village is a good opportunity,” Novak sad. “We need to post openings internally and externally.

“It’s all about transparency. We should post the position, recruit and select the best candidate.”

He also noted that the IMRF hiring freeze was implemented to give the Village Council control over hiring, calling it a “good government practice.”

He also stressed that his negative vote was against the process and “has nothing to do with this individual.”

Letter: Voters asked for transparency and that is what they will get

On April 22, at the Village Council meeting, the Commissioners and Mayor were given the opportunity to vote to approve a salary ordinance wage increase of 2% for fiscal year 2019 and hire for a vacant position in the Village of Forest Park Public Works Department.

I voted NO and I think the residents deserve to hear why.

The council was asked to vote on the salary ordinance which included a 2% raise for staff across the board. In less than three weeks our new elected officials start their four year term. Part of their obligation, responsibility and promise to Forest Park residents will be maintaining our financial sustainability. Their meaningful impact should be considered and the Village Administrator and department heads should present their case/justification for the increase in expenses within the budget the elected officials will oversee for the next four years.  Our new Council should have the opportunity to "help make the bed" and not just have to settle for "sleeping in it".

Based on my previous experience on the Council, this raise ordinance has not gone into effect until after the start of our fiscal year and an evaluation of our current financial state has been assessed. I am not a fan of a blanket raise increase across the board.  I believe in merit based raises and formal evaluations of staff members. Reward those who excel. Government practices this day and age should mirror best business practices. A 2% raise for the Village Administrator and department heads does not compare in take home funds to a front line staff member. We should determine a pool dollar amount within the operational budget and reward those who are the most impactful and doing their best for our Village. After all that is what we all want, the best for Forest Park.

The Council was also asked to waive the hiring freeze for a Public Works position that was officially vacated in March. This request for approval came without a job posting nor any formal process of recruitment, interviewing, or hiring. Our current form of government allows the Director of Public Works and Commissioner of Public Property with the support of the Village Administrator to "hand pick" any individual to this position circumventing a fair or best practice hiring process.

I am a firm believer that it is crucial that when positions become available that we find the best fit and most deserving candidate to serve our Village. Their selected candidate may be the best and most qualified, but without a fair process allowing for opportunity, interviews or a promotion from within—how would we know?  

I would 100% support the filling of this position and/or future Village of Forest Park employment opportunities if and when appropriate hiring steps are taken to find the best candidate for the job internally or externally. Best government practices are key! In addition, to what I feel is a lack of transparency, it is void of good business practices.

I encourage residents to follow my Facebook Page Citizens for Daniel Novak. I made a promise to continue my open door policy for my second term and I want to make sure residents know I am accessible and available to answer questions.

Sincerely,

Daniel J. Novak

Village Commissioner of Forest Park

2015-present

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