February 27, 2008

The City Responds

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 12:37 pm

My February 15, 2008, post titled Better Than a Gold Watch referred to employee consulting services contracts  issued by the City during 2007 to three retired Coeur d’Alene employees and their spouses.   The contracts were mentioned in minutes of three separate city council meetings, but there were no details about the contracts.   The absence of detail seemed worthy of further examination.

Wishing to learn more, I went to the Coeur d’Alene website and pulled up the council packets for each of the council meetings. 

May 15, 2007 council packet (168 pages)

September 4, 2007 council packet (304 pages)

October 2, 2007 council packet (202 pages)

The council packets are prepared for each council member prior to each meeting.  They contain various materials to help council members better understand and prepare to conduct the meeting’s business.   The council packets are available online to the general public. 

I was surprised to find the online council packets linked above contained no details about the Carpenter and Suchocki contracts and only the bare council resolution about the Cochran contract.  I fully expected to see a staff report and a copy of the contract with any attachments for each.  None of that information was online.   That seemed unusual since these were documents council would presumably want to read to determine if the contracts were in the city’s best interest.   On February 19, 2008, I mailed an Idaho Public Records Law request for this information to City Clerk Susan Weathers.   On February 22, 2008, she called me on the telephone and told me I could pick up the documents requested at City Hall.  There was no charge for the documents.

Here are links to the documents she provided in response to my request for public records:

The notary page was not scanned and included in the links for any of the agreements unless that page also included agreement information or agreement signatures.

The information she provided also included the resolutions authorizing each respective contract with the former employees and spouses.  The respective roll-call vote on each resolution was included, however I have not scanned and reproduced them since they are available on the City’s website at the council minutes.

After reviewing the material provided by the City, I had some additional questions.  On February 26, 2008, I met personally with City Human Resources Director Pam MacDonald to clarify a few points. 

The hyperlinked material speaks for itself and requires little interpretation. 

MacDonald was unsure exactly how long this rule had been available to the City but estimated 10-15 years.  She also estimated that 10-12 other former employees have been covered by it. 

MacDonald explained that the employee consulting services contracts must first meet a need the City has identified.  For example, a soon-to-be retiree might have unique knowledge and skills about an ongoing project, and it might be beneficial for the City to have the retiree work with the City’s new project manager to provide institutional knowledge.

Once the need has been established, the City uses employees’ base salaries to determine if the requisite cost savings can be achieved. 

Finally, it is the responsibility of the City staff member supervising the position to determine when and if the retiree/consultant has satisfactorily met the terms of the contract.  So for Carpenter, that determination would be made by Jon Ingalls.  For Suchocki it would be made by Gordon Dobler.  For Cochran it would be made by Kenny Gabriel.   In most instances the work is expected to be completed by October 2008. 

It is important to note that none of the retiree/consultants receive cash reimbursement for their work.  The rules, staff reports, and contracts clearly indicate that the City makes payment to the retiree/consultants’ medical insurance providers.  Remember, too, that even though these payments are never handled by the retiree/consultant, they are “compensation” and must be reported as income to the state and federal governments.

I invite readers to carefully examine the documents linked above.  If you have ever been a consultant, how does the wording and precision in these documents compare with statements of work and contracts you have experienced?  Your comments are invited.

1 Comment

  1. It appears that these people are getting 3 years worth of health insurance coverage (or partial premium payment) for 240 hours worth of work. Roughly the numbers work out to around $75/hour, which is not outrageous for consultant money. What is odd is that they are retained to do work that the city has hired other people to do. The litmus test is that they can make no more money than “X” amount than if they were still in their old positions. Whatever the number money is being paid to fulfill the job responsibilities of an existing employee. If the newly hired employee could not do the work then why were they hired? This smells like a golden parachute retirement perk. We’ll give you 3 years of health insurance coverage for 6 weeks worth of work.

    Comment by Wallypog — February 27, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

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