Exclusive: Contractor Quits City; City Left to Own Devices on Employee Appeals
Aldermen Randy Stroik (left) and Michael O’Meara are among those Council Members who have consistently argued against moving forward with the pay plan presented by Carlson Dettman because the process used in arriving at the final numbers was not made available to the city. (City-Times photo)
“Look how ridiculous this governing body has handled this situation.” -Mayor Andrew Halverson
By Brandi Makuski
Carlson Dettman has quit the City of Stevens Point.
The Madison- based consulting firm has for nearly a decade contracted its services to the city, providing in-depth reports on statewide salary studies and a series of matrices for the city’s pay scale, giving city leaders a gauge for where to set the average salary for each position within city employ. But now, Carlson Dettmann has thrown in the towel.
In an email obtained Sunday by the City-Times, Mayor Andrew Halverson told members of the City Council about the new development, saying any further communication with Charlie Carlson of Carlson Dettmann would have to go through respective attorneys.
“I have had conversations with Charlie Carlson, and he has indicated given the continued specter of possible legal action, either directly or indirectly from the city, he will no longer be working with us,” Halverson said in the memo dated May 9.
Council Members have for two months voiced concerns about how Carlson arrived at the final result showing Stevens Point paid employees below average based on the averages from a list of comparable cities, as well as how private and public employer information from the list of comparables affected those final numbers. Carlson has consistently said information relating to his company’s process is proprietary and protected by trade secret law, something many Council Members said they did not fully believe. At least one Council Member has said he would consult with an attorney independently after his open records request for additional information was ignored.
“We have not had a chance as a Council to compare the (job) position descriptions of the comparables and how they were placed. So we’re asked to trust somebody I’ve never met; I think it’s reasonable for us to examine his work. I think in not doing it he (Carlson) produces his own mistrust,” said Alderman Mike O’Meara, who in March had placed an open records request for the details through City Attorney Logan Beveridge. “We’re being asked to endorse this process without ever getting to examine what this process was.”
According to Halverson, Carlson eventually relented, saying Council Members could view the information provided each signed a nondisclosure agreement. Havlerson said it was a “standard agreement” holding each Council Member individually and personally liable and not protected by city legal counsel in the event of an information breach- a prospect as which each Council Member balked. Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski was the lone Council Member to sign the agreement, though he later formally withdrew his signature.
“The idea that we’re going to be personally liable, that’s really a bunch of bunk,” O’Meara said. “If it’s really proprietary, he wouldn’t show it to us. Proprietary is the formula for Coca-Cola; I don’t care what you sign they wouldn’t show it to you. What they’re asking us to do is trust his work without us being allowed to examine it. I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing for us to do. Our fiduciary responsibility is to the citizens of Stevens Point.”
Members of the City Council began the process of considering a new Carlson Dettmann wage study and pay scale matrix about eight months ago, and nearly held up approval of the 2014 city budget because of lengthy debates over the study’s merits and which cities to include as comparable measures against Stevens Point.
While that new pay scale was eventually approved, Halverson in April asked the Council to reinstate four cities into the list of comparables it had previously dismissed to more accurately reflect average salaries across the state.
Alderman Mike Wiza in April had asked for the numbers relating to the new variables before the Council decided whether or not to use them, but Halverson said there was “no way” those numbers would be forthcoming.
“None of that was provided, nor will it be provided, util such time as Mr. Carlson discussed the situation more thoroughly with his attorney,” Halverson told the City-Times on April 30. “That’s about all I can tell you about that.”
As a result of Carlson’s move, Halverson said, the pay scale which Stevens Point is now using contains old and potentially incomplete information, leaving the city with nearly 50 appeals from employees who say they were not categorized in the new pay scale correctly.
“I have the authority right now to approve or reject any of those appeals,” Halverson said. “I have not. The original contract lays out (that) Charlie Carlson and myself will review those appeals,” Halverson said, adding twice he and Carlson had time blocked off to hear the appeals beginning in January, but talk of independent legal action from Council Members has prevented that from happening so he may forced to proceed hearing the appeals without Carlson’s assistance.
“I have alderpersons- in public meetings- not only allege legal action but continue to pursue it. They’re members of the governing body- that becomes direct check marks when you look at whether we can communicate one and one anymore,” Havlerson said. “Look how ridiculous this governing body has handled this situation.”
The Stevens Point Personnel Committee on Monday will now have to consider how to proceed. No further information relating to the issue was included in the public meeting packet.
The Personnel Committee meets at Lincoln Center, 1519 Water Street, at 6 PM on Monday. The public is welcome.