The battle over city manager raged on Tuesday with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk accusing Joliet City Council members of engaging in “secret meetings,” and council members describing the ongoing process as “madness,” “ridiculous” and “dirtier than a mud puddle.”
The council voted, 5-3, to negotiate a contract with former City Manager Jim Hock to come back as interim city manager.
Hock, according to comments at the council meeting, wants to be paid at a rate of $215,000 a year, the pay the last permanent city manager was getting.
Hock may not be back for a full year, although he reportedly told the council in closed session Monday that it would take at least six months to find a permanent city manager for Joliet.
Just how long it might take to get started is another question, since some council members want to work through job descriptions before even making an offer to Hock.
“Let’s do a search and get it over with,” council member Bettye Gavin said at one point.
Gavin has been the one vocal council member among the five-member majority who voted last month to remove Martin Shanahan from the interim city manager job and voted Tuesday to negotiate an offer with Hock.
Gavin opened her comments Tuesday “apologizing to residents” for having to “go through this madness and this confusion.”
“The simple ask for me was to have an open and transparent process,” Gavin said. “We’ve done it twice before. I thought we could do it again.”
The five council members who voted to remove Shanahan also wanted to have a candidate search for a permanent city manager.
“Every time there was an obstacle,” Gavin said.
O’Dekirk and three other council members wanted to promote Shanahan to the permanent city manager position.
O’Dekirk objected to the characterization of the process being slowed down before Shanahan was removed and accused the five-member majority of prolonging a search by their actions.
“I know it’s a mess,” O’Dekirk said. “I know there have been secret meetings that have gone on and backdoor phone calls.”
O’Dekirk referred to the five-member majority sending identical or nearly identical emails to City Hall to get Shanahan’s removal put on the agenda for the June 18 meeting.
“This whole process has been kicked back for months,” O’Dekirk said.
O’Dekirk noted he had discussed forming a council committee at the June 4 meeting and beginning a candidate search, which appeared to have the consent of the council before the decision to remove Shanahan.
At the June 4 meeting, O’Dekirk also emphasized that the process would be extended because of the need to bring in outside consultants. He said no city staff could be involved in a candidate search because they worked for Shanahan, who will seek the job.
Now, some council members are questioning who can negotiate a contract with Hock, noting that interim City Manager Steve Jones, who replaced Shanahan, was hired by Hock and had a conflict of interest.
“All this wasting of time and wasting of money for an interim city manager is getting ridiculous,” said council member Jan Quillman, who, however, also raised the issue of a conflict of interest for Jones.
“The entire process has been corrupted from the beginning,” said council member Larry Hug, the most outspoken among the Shanahan supporters. “It’s dirtier than a mud puddle.”
The council will have to meet again to approve any terms in a contract for Hock.