Pay Plan Back to Haunt Personnel Committee, Full Council
Left, Alderman Mike O’Meara chairs the city’s Personnel Committee. (City-Times photo)
Mayor tells Personnel Committee a request for information from contracted business consultant will not be granted
By Brandi Makuski
A newly- implemented pay plan for city workers is back before Stevens Point Council Members with questions about full disclosure, fairness and transparency.
Alderman Mike O’Meara last month requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to a pay plan created by Carlson- Dettmann, a Madison- based consulting firm hired by the city in August of last year. The city’s new pay structure was created using a process which compares municipal jobs against a matrix of comparable public and private sector job details- information O’Meara said the city needs before they can address a slew of appeals from city workers.
O’Meara said he made the request through City Attorney Logan Beveridge.
“I contacted Charlie Carlson today and requested the information. He declined to provide it,” Beveridge said. “But I specifically requested information on the benchmarks of public sector jobs, and we (the city) stated we would like to see that within one week of today or I would pursue legal action to compel them to provide it.”
More than 20 city employees have filed appeals over the new pay plan, arguing they were misclassified either in job weight or pay grade. As a result of the new pay plan some positions received an increase in pay, and while other positions were found to be overpaid no wage decreases were implemented and no jobs were eliminated.
O’Meara said city leaders can’t equitably review those appeals without knowing how Carlson-Dettmann arrived at each of the job grades- information Charlie Carlson has in the past argued is proprietary to his company and not subject to release the FOIA.
“I’d like to see his work product and how he rated (job) skills and duties, because it is a public record; it does have value to the people making the appeal. We hired him- he’s doing work for us and that makes it public record,” O’Meara said, adding city employees only get one chance for an appeal and not having the information he requested could mean an unfair appeals process.
“It’s like a trial without being able to provide evidence,” he said.
O’Meara said his request didn’t only include information on private sector comparables, but also the process Carlson’s company used to arrive at the current pay plan.
“Did he (Carlson) do an analysis on a large enough number of our jobs that in fact we’re getting a real deal here? In my FOIA, I don’t just want printed spread sheets; I wanted electronic copies so I can see how he’s getting his information. Everybody has the comparables of how much, say, a plow driver in Wisconsin Rapids is getting paid, but that’s not what I asked for. I want to know how those comparables were used and how he weighted those duties- otherwise we have no idea how he made those decisions. We don’t know whether we’re being equitable,” O’Meara said.
O’Meara has repeatedly asked for the information, along with other members of the City Council, but has repeatedly been turned down. In November of last year the City Council, with several members admitting confusion over the highly-technical matrix approved the pay plan, saying it was better than doing nothing.
Council Members also approved an appeals process that involves an initial review by Carlson and Mayor Andrew Halverson. Should the appeal be denied, workers can bring the issue before the Personnel Committee for a final determination.
Halverson said he and Carlson were scheduled to review the appeals on Jan. 23.
“Some of those (appeals) requests are more compelling than others, and we will probably make a request to approve or deny those requests the first week in February,” Halverson said, saying the process would likely take “at least half the day”.
“Most of the appeals in our possession site numerous comparables they’ve already researched on their own,” he added. “The biggest misconception within many of the appeals- if not all of them- is the fact that we are seeing exclusive response within the appeals and specific reference only to public sector comparables.”
Members of the Personnel Committee said that’s the problem.
“We started this because we wanted to be fair and give everything fairness,” said Alderman Mike Phillips. “Evidently there’s something that slipped through and some people don’t think it was fair.”
Halverson said there were limitations to what information the committee would be getting from Carlson.
“At some point you’ll have to make a decision based on what we do know with as much of the evidence we do have,” he said. “Mr. Carlson obviously knows how he arrived at those determinations based on the data he used and how he applied it as it related to why an appeal was rejected or why it was affirmed. There’s only so much I can tell you.”