Belleville council approves attorneys' contracts

News-DemocratJune 17, 2013 

— The Belleville City Council unanimously voted Monday to approve contracts for the city's two new attorneys. They removed a clause that would have required the city to give money for retirement and health benefits even if the attorneys don't get such benefits.

At the City Council meeting, City Clerk Dallas Cook asked city leaders to remove this part of the contract for City Attorney Garrett Hoerner and Assistant City Attorney Brian Flynn.

Cook said the city should not waste taxpayer money by giving the attorneys the "monetary equivalent" of what the city would pay for their healthcare, retirement and other benefits -- especially if the attorneys don't qualify for retirement benefits or decline the city's healthcare benefits.

Cook said the city's contribution to the pension systems for Hoerner and Flynn is about $20,000 a year, or about 12 percent of the attorneys' combined salaries.

The city will pay Hoerner $109,647 a year, and Flynn $53,613.

The City Council was in executive session for about an hour to discuss compensation for the attorneys.

After, in public session, Mayor Mark Eckert said the council will vote on the contract without the part about benefits. Aldermen likely will revisit the issue pending a final decision by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Earlier this month, IMRF, the pension system for municipal workers, said Hoerner and Flynn are not eligible to participate in the program for pension benefits.

Hoerner said he believes IMRF should make a determination with input from him and Flynn. The attorneys said they plan to work with IMRF to confirm eligibility and will appeal IMRF's decision if necessary.

Hoerner, who drafted the contracts, said the benefits section addressed a compensation package approved within the city's budget and historically provided to previous city attorneys.

The proposed contracts, however, differed from previous attorneys' contracts because it includes a benefits clause.

The "benefits" portion of the contract stated: "The City shall afford Employee any and all benefits provided to other appointed officers of the City, including but not limited to leave, health insurance, life insurance and retirement benefits; that, if Employee does not receive any such benefit(s), the City shall pay Employee the monetary equivalent of same."

After Hoerner and Flynn were appointed in May. Cook questioned whether the attorneys are eligible to participate in IMRF. Cook said the attorneys do not work the 1,000 hours a year to qualify.

Both attorneys say they work enough hours to qualify for pension benefits, just as their predecessors did.

Former city attorney Robert Sprague collects more than $7,200 a month and former assistant city attorney Patrick "Mike" Flynn gets $3,496 a month from IMRF after each served more than 30 years in Belleville.

Also on Monday:

*Aldermen approved Jim Davidson to fill the Ward 4 alderman seat vacated by Dean Hardt, who is now the city treasurer. Davidson's term ends in 2015.

Ten aldermen voted yes, three aldermen voted no and two aldermen abstained. Those who voted no were: Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 6 Alderman Bob White and Lillian Schneider, alderwoman-at-large. Those who abstained were Ward 3 Alderman Gabby Rujawitz and Ward 7 Alderman Trent Galetti.

Davidson, 63, is a retired Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center warden and now works as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Lindenwood University-Belleville.

* Aldermen approved about $233,000 for new police cars: six marked cars, two unmarked cars and two suburban utility vehicles; about $31,000 for a truck and car for Housing Department inspectors; and about $29,000 for a Fire Department SUV.

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