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Joliet City Council stays divided, but has Jones on the job for now

The City Council divide stayed wide a day after a human resource specialist advised some unity was needed to attract city manager candidates.

The council on Tuesday cast a now familiar 5-3 vote for an employment agreement that locks in Steve Jones as interim city manager for six months but opens the door for what one council member repeatedly called “double dipping” after that.

The agreement sets terms for Jones to become a contractor for the city in March, although Jones said it does not bind the city to follow through on the arrangement and insisted he has not made a decision to start collecting his pension in March.

But Jones said Wednesday that he does want to convert from employee to contractor either in Joliet or elsewhere.

“My future role is going to be contracting either in Joliet or in another capacity,” he said.

Jones would not comment on council member Jan Quillman’s comments at the Tuesday meeting that he had said he would quit without the employment agreement.

“I felt that we’re being held hostage,” Quillman said. “Either you’re giving me this or I’m walking.”

“I will not discuss what was said in executive session,” Jones said when asked about Quillman’s comment.

The city manager situation was likely to become more chaotic if Jones did not stay as interim city manager. He is the second interim city manager. The city has not had a permanent manager since David Hales left in October. At the council’s workshop meeting Monday, Joellen Cademartori, chief executive officer at GovHR USA, told the council that the situation would deter top candidates from applying for the city manager job unless the City Council came to a consensus.

“If that can’t happen, I don’t know what to tell you,” she said. “I can tell you definitively it would be difficult to get a good candidate.”

Cademartori’s comments were prompted by council member Larry Hug, who said he had been told GovHR USA had advised waiting six months to do a candidate search.

Hug is one of three council members joined by Mayor Bob O’Dekirk who were opposed to a candidate search and wanted to give the city manager job to City Attorney Martin Shanahan, who had been the interim city manager before Jones was appointed in June.

Five council members voted to remove Shanahan from the position, saying the move was needed to start a candidate search.

No search has been started.

On Aug. 20, the council may vote whether to contract GovHR USA for the job.

Hug also was fiercely critical of the arrangement made with Jones.

“It’s an inappropriate contract on its face,” Hug said. “I had one person who told me this is double dipping on steroids.”

If the city keeps Jones as a contractor in March, he could retire as a municipal employee and begin collecting a pension from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund while continuing to work for the city.

While Jones said he has not decided to do that, Hug said the arrangement “makes no sense” unless Jones wants to begin collecting his pension.

Under the agreement approved Tuesday, Jones would continue serving as interim city manager and as a a city employee at an annual rate of pay of $192,000.

If Joliet keeps him after Feb. 29 as interim city manager, he would become a contractor paid at an annual rate of $180,000, while the city would also pay 40% of his salary in vendor fees to a third-party agency through which he would be employed.

If the city has a new city manager by then, Joliet could keep Jones as economic development director, doing the work he had done before becoming interim city manager, at a contractor rate of $121,000, plus 40% in vendor fees.

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