City Council Priming for Legal Battle With Carlson Dettmann
Alderman Jerry Moore (left) with Mayor Andrew Halverson in April. Moore says he agrees city employees should be better compensated commiserate with their workload but he has problems with several elements of the process by which the new city pay plan was created. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Members of the Stevens Point Common Council on Monday could decide whether to pursue legal action against Carlson Dettmann, the hired consultant which city officials say could be in breach of contract.
The Madison-based consulting firm was hired last year to perform a wage study for the city, which included measuring job descriptions against actual duties as well as salaries for city employees. That data would be weighed against a list of comparable cities in Wisconsin resulting in a new pay scale for employees, something city leaders said was necessary to keep Stevens Point competitive statewide. The study results showed many city workers were underpaid compared with similar employees in other municipalities.
But in early May Charlie Carlson said his company had decided to no longer work with the city, despite not having completed one part of the job it was hired for; assisting Mayor Andrew Halverson with considering more than 40 appeals from employees who claimed they weren’t being categorized correctly in the new pay plan. According to city Comptroller-Treasurer Corey Ladick, Carlson Dettman has been paid in full- about $25,000- for the job.
“That check has already cleared,” Ladick said last week.
In an email obtained by the City-Times dated May 9, Mayor Andrew Halverson broke the news to the Council:
I have had conversations with Charlie Carlson, and he has indicated given the continued specter of legal action, either directly or indirectly from the City, he will no longer be working with us. In addition, disclosure of proprietary information also complications this process at the time. Conversations at this point will need to go through attorneys.
Alderman Mike O’Meara, along with several others on the Council, had questioned the voracity of the results provided to the city by Carlson, asking for details in February on the process Carlson used to determine the new pay scale. Carlson refused, saying the process his company used was proprietary. In March, O’Meara placed an open records request for the details through City Attorney Logan Beveridge, arguing Carlson’s work should be public because he was doing business on behalf of the taxpayers and city.
“We’re being asked to endorse this process without ever getting to examine what this process was,” O’Meara said.
In April, O’Meara said his open records request went unanswered but after several other Council Members voiced similar concerns Carlson relented, saying he would provide the information but only if Council Members signed nondisclosure agreements. The Council members refused, saying it left them individually liable and without legal protection from the city. Last month, O’Meara told the Council in open session that he was considering consulting with a lawyer independently for legal advice.
The process of adopting the new pay plan has been a difficult one for the city, with Council Members and Mayor Halverson arguing over which cities to include on the list of comparables against which Stevens Point wages would be measured. Council Members had removed La Crosse, Eau Claire and De Pere from the list of comparables provided by the mayor, saying those cities shouldn’t be compared with Stevens Point because they had higher populations and equalized values.
Halverson later asked for those cities to be reinstated, along with Sun Prairie, and a new matrix be created for an updated pay plan, but the Council turned that down.
According to city documents, the Council will convene into closed session around 8:30 PM Monday to consult legal counsel to discuss “litigation in which it is or likely to become involved relating to the contract with Carlson Dettmann…”. The city’s regular monthly Council meeting begins at 7 PM inside the courthouse and is open to the public.