Mayor, Council Remain at Odds Over Pay Plan
Mayor Andrew Halverson was both verbally- and visibly- upset during Monday’s special Common Council meeting. (City-Times photo)
“This entire process, from the beginning, has been a debacle, to the say the least.” -Alderman Randy Stroik
By Brandi Makuski
After more than a year of debate, the Stevens Point city pay plan remains unfinished after a night of finger-pointing and blistering remarks between Mayor Andrew Halverson and the Common Council.
The new pay plan was created by Madison-based consulting firm Carlson Dettman and was supposed to place city employees into pay grades comparable to other municipalities, improving retention and keeping the city competitive throughout the state. Nearly 50 employees appealed their placement within the new pay plan, and after two weeks of reconsideration by Halverson and Alderman Mike Phillips, only 10 of those appeals were denied. Council members were expected to hear final appeals from those 10 employees during a special Common Council meeting Monday night.
But the council didn’t hear any of those appeals, with nearly all on the council saying they didn’t have time over the July 4th weekend to read through the 300 pages of appeals documents, which they received just prior to the long weekend.
“I just received all this stuff on Thursday, and I haven’t even scratched the surface,” said Council President Jeremy Slowsinski. “The way I thought this was going to go is the Personnel Committee was going to get all this information prior so they could review it, giving them ample time to hear the appeals, then it would come to Council. So I can’t make any decisions yet.”
“I think we need to postpone this until everybody has had ample time to read through it,” said Alderman Mike Wiza. “It’s not exactly open that we’re doing this after a long holiday weekend, and some people may not have even heard about it.”
Alderman Mike O’Meara said any decision the Council made could affect someone’s life and he wasn’t prepared for it.
“You can’t give somebody 300 pages on a holiday weekend; I tried to read 300 pages, but I’m not getting the comprehension and understanding I would like,” O’Meara said. “We haven’t had time to read the briefs- I think 300 pages deserves at least 10, 14 days.”
Halverson said the Council’s argument was moot, especially since the pay plan discussion had been ongoing for over a year and the appeals process was well publicized. He also pointed out the initial appeals were considered- and agreed upon jointly- by himself and Alderman Mike Phillips, who rarely agree on anything.
“Employees had significant amount of time to prepare, as should have the alderpersons- in particular the Personnel Committee,” he said. “In my opinion it’s absolutely irrelevant that it was a holiday weekend.”
O’Meara moved the Council postponed hearing the appeals until after July 21, a move which passed by a 7-4 vote, with aldermen Tony Patton, Jerry Moore, Mike Phillips and Randy Stroik voting against. Patton alone said he read through the entire document prior to the meeting.
O’Meara said that put the Council in a tough spot, and if they approved the new plan, it wouldn’t be acting with enough information.
“We’d be guessing- we’d be building on a foundation of mush,” he said.
But the time frame wasn’t the Council’s only concern. Some complained about the appeals being delivered electronically, which Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski said made it “nearly impossible” to read through, suggesting a hard copy would have been easier for the council members to read. Others took issue with the inclusion of employee’s names within the appeals process, arguing it was not the employee, but the position, which was being graded.
Halverson said he provided the Council exactly what it asked for, but council members still argued there was one glaring exception- the details behind how jobs were graded in the pay plan. Since hiring Carlson Dettmann, the Council has also argued it should be privy to exactly how the consulting firm graded each position for placement on the pay scale, a process Charlie Carlson told the city is proprietary and not subject to their review.
The Council last year also spent months debating which municipalities should be included in determining a pay average for each position, eventually removing cities with high equalized values which some said were not comparable to Stevens Point. Halverson said that lowered the average wages for the city’s pay plan and later proposed re-including the cities but the Council voted that measure down.
Alderman Randy Stroik called the entire process “a debacle, to say the least,” and asked Halverson to clarify if the pending pay plan, once approved, would be a document the city could be proud of.
Halverson answered with a resounding “no”, saying the Council has stalled for so long the current averages are no longer accurate.
“The averages are wrong; they’re not reflective of a broad enough stretch of the state, from a recruitment and retention point of view,” Halverson said. “The core of the work that was done by the consultant is correct for the parameters set for him by this Council. Am I proud of the way this process has unfolded? No- I think it’s an absolute embarrassment.”
Halverson also said he believes individual council members have been influenced by the union workers in the city, which he said “made a ridiculous mockery of this particular process”.
“I think the Common Council has trivialized this entire process, and I think it’s inevitable the pay plan will never be respected because of that,” he said. “I think the only way you’re going to get around that is to scrap this and spend another $30,000 on (a pay plan) that seemingly, someone, somewhere will believe is more appropriate than this one, and it’s pretty obvious, based on the forces that are in play, that you’ll never get to that point anyway. We passed that many, many months ago, and now future councils and future mayors will have to deal with it.”
Halverson also said the Council has stalled on the pay plan for so long it’s no longer appropriate. The Council will have to consider whether to continue hearing appeals, or contracting a new pay plan, later this month.