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Downers Grove Council approves police and staff raises despite objections

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 2:23 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:59 p.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE — Village officials approved raises for Downers Grove police and top staff on Tuesday despite objections that the compensation was either too large, too small or that the entire evaluation process was faulty.

The village council approved a 2-percent raise for Village Manager David Fieldman, a $3,000 increase that brings his total compensation to $163,000, plus a $10,000 bonus. Village Attorney Enza Petrarca received a 3-percent bump that would bring her compensation to roughly $128,000, according to village compensation records.

Commissioners, meanwhile, approved a new contract with the police officer's union, the Fraternal Order of Police, that awarded a 2-percent increase for last year and this year, plus a 1 percent raise in 2014 for Downers Grove police officers.

The raises did not come without some opposition — though no one on the council said Fieldman, Petrarca or the officers had not earned the raises. Instead, commissioners objected to the way in which the village arrived at the figures.

Commissioner Bob Barnett voted against all three raise packages in part because he wants the council to reconsider the way it negotiates its compensation agreements. There should be a clearer connection to performance metrics, he said, and there should be a consideration of fluctuations in revenue before the village is locked into raises.

"Binding our residents to future costs increases without the protections I just mentioned — when two-thirds or more of our total revenue is completely beyond our control — just seems foolish to me," Barnett said.

The council met in closed session this winter to discuss the contract and the staff raises, and at one point they had considered an agreement that included "a commitment from this body to improve our process," Barnett said. That language did not make it to Tuesday's meeting, but Barnett said he still hopes the council can make that commitment.

Commissioner Sean Durkin, meanwhile, voted in favor of the police raises, but he also voted against Fieldman's and Petrarca's raises over the lack of a clear review process comparable to the private sector. But in his case, he felt the bonuses might even be too low.

"We are shortchanging the man with a $10,000 bonus," Durkin said. "There's no way we can defend or define or explain why it's $10,000 and not 5 or 17 or 25,000. So, nothing against Mr. Fieldman — or Dave — it's just that I don't think we're being fair."

The third "No" vote came from Commissioner Bill Waldack. He opposed only Fieldman's raise. The raise, combined with the bonus, was just too much, he said.

"It's actually the total package," Waldack said in a phone interview Wednesday. "If you would've just given 3-percent (raise without the bonus), it would have been a different type of situation. As far as performance goes, both of them were rate quite highly, and deservedly so."

Last April, when the village last considered for Fieldman's compensation, Barnett and Waldack both voted against a raise and bonus.

The council ultimately approved that $20,000 raise and $5,000 bonus, with Barnett again criticizing the process but not the performance.

Waldack, both last year and this week, did not explain his thinking when casting his vote. He said Wednesday that he does not think it's appropriate to discuss performance and compensation on the dais.

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