Major Turnaround: City Not Suing Consultant
Photo: Mayor Andrew Halverson talks with local media. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
After a brief closed- session discussion Monday night, Mayor Andrew Halverson says the City of Stevens Point likely won’t be pursuing legal action against hired consultant Carlson Dettmann.
The Madison- based consulting firm was hired in 2013 to conduct an in-depth study of city employee salaries and weigh them against private and public sector comparables from other cities in Wisconsin. The resulting new pay plan has brought forth nearly 50 appeals from employees who say they were unfairly classified.
But the City Council wanted details on the process used in determining the end result of the study, which Carlson Dettmann refused to release, saying it was proprietary information. After an unsuccessful open records request, City Councilman Mike O’Meara in April told the Council during open session he consulted with a lawyer independently and said the city should consider legal action against the company to obtain the data.
Halverson on Monday said the issue with Carlson Dettmann has become “clearer” after further talks with company partner Charlie Carlson, and- despite his earlier memo to the Council which stated Carlson would no longer be working with the city- said the working relationship has returned to relative normalcy.
“We don’t feel there are going to be any issues there at all from a legal perspective whatsoever. He (Carlson) continues to be available to Chairman Phillips and myself over the phone for questions we have for appeals,” Halverson said Monday.
Alderman Mike Phillips- who chairs the Personnel Committee- has been pinged to jointly decide employee appeals with Halverson. The move was made at the request of Alderman Mike Wiza, who, after the announcement of Carlson’s departure from the process, last week said that Halverson alone shouldn’t be deciding the appeals.
Halverson added he still wanted Carlson to put together a new matrix for an updated pay plan, something the City Council voted against in April.
“Carlson and I still need to have a conversation as to whether they will do that- I hope they do because I think it would be quite revealing in terms of where we fall with the mean averages of those variables,” Halverson said. He previously told the Council he assumed there would be no added cost for the new matrix, but if the cost is a small one he plans to pay for it from his own office budget.
The move is a large turn around from two weeks ago, when the mayor told the City Council the appeals process would be moving on without Carlson. Halverson now says Carlson had “always” indicated he would be willing to finish the job.
“He always indicated he would be willing to at least work with us with phone calls related to the appeals; he reiterated that offer,” Halverson said. “I think he was getting somewhat alarmed about the kinds of public comments we were hearing about continued legal action. Obviously that’s going to give someone cause for concern. We’re comfortable moving forward.”
Halverson added city employees have until May 30 to either submit an appeal or make changes to an appeal they’ve already filed. Decisions on those appeals should come sometime the first week in June.