The Joliet quest for a permanent city manager took another controversial twist this week amid political issues surrounding the process of filling the job.
Interim City Manager Steve Jones has offered to stay on the job until the next city elections in April 2021, a nod to the political predicament.
The City Council has had a consistent 5-3 split, with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, a potential ninth and tie-breaking vote, siding with the minority on issues related to the city manager.
The familiar division occurred again Tuesday when the council voted to table a second city manager search and consider keeping Jones longer than previously planned.
Jones after the meeting said that he made the offer to stay until the next election because the political situation is likely to deter applicants.
“I knew there were some issues over whether the City Council felt they would be able to do a successful recruitment,” Jones said, acknowledging those issues revolved around council division over the job. “Who’s going to move here knowing that you have a 5-4 split on a board and a change could lead to negative consequences?”
Jones sent an email to council members offering to stay until the next election ahead of the the council meeting.
“I threw this out there as a way to help them,” Jones said. “I guess this is what happens.”
What had happened was another city manager controversy in which O’Dekirk repeatedly accused the five-member majority of keeping a part-time city manager on the job.
Council members on Jones’ side rejected O’Dekirk’s claim that he’s a part-timer.
“I think Steve Jones is doing a great job,” council member Don Dickinson said. “I think he puts in all the hours we need him to.”
Jones after the meeting said he is putting in more than 50 hours a week.
He also said he’s been keeping a log of the hours he puts in compared with the number of hours submitted for payment, “and it’s not even close.”
Jones since March 1 has been working on a contract agreement through GovTempsUSA that allows him to bill for up to 40 hours a week. He said he’s putting in the same kind of hours he was working while serving as interim city manager as a city employee.
“You show me one city staff member who works 40 hours,” Jones said, referring to department heads. “They all work more.”
O’Dekirk on Wednesday would not comment on whether he thinks Jones is working part-time hours but said Jones is free to do so under his contract.
“He could show up next week and work five hours, and we couldn’t do anything about it,” O’Dekirk said.