Metro-East News

East St. Louis lays off five employees, more may be coming

City Manager Alvin Parks on Wednesday laid off five city employees, some of whom were hired after Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks took office in May, and suggested that more layoffs may be coming.

Parks said the changes to the staff were made to “move the city in a positive financial direction.”

In a letter announcing the layoffs, Parks said, “The city deems that the above listed staff reductions are temporary, but indefinite.”

Those who received layoff notices were Carey Lewis, administrative assistant in the police department; Tyron Taylor, director of external affairs and economic development; Jessica Wernli, external communications manager; Latoya Clemens, human resources assistant; and Dedre Brock-Moore, who is the newly appointed regulatory affairs director. A deputy liquor commission position that was not filled also was eliminated.

Taylor was hired under Parks when Parks was mayor for $60,000 to be economic development director. When Jackson-Hicks took office, she increased Taylor’s salary to $85,000 and gave him the additional title of director of external affairs.

For now, newly hired Public Safety Director, Todd Fulton, will remain as the city’s public safety director and will also head up the Regulatory Affairs Department on an interim basis.

In Public Works, Roy Mosley Jr., the son of Councilman Roy Mosley Sr., was returned to his job as director of Public Works. Roy Mosley Jr. will get the title back when the City Council adopts the budget amendment and will have the same salary as the chiefs of the police and fire department, Parks said. Mosley was one of the three City Council members who voted in favor of bringing Parks back as city manager.

The other two were Robert Eastern III and Latoya Greenwood. Eastern put the motion on the floor and Greenwood seconded the motion. Greenwood is the daughter of Lonzo Greenwood, who is the chairman of the East St. Louis Democratic Club. Jackson-Hicks and City Councilwoman June Hamilton Dean voted not to bring Parks back. The measure passed 3-2.

Robert Dukes, who Jackson-Hicks made manager in public works is returning to his job as superintendent, effective Aug. 24. He has been returned to superintendent’s pay, and his title will be restored when the City Council adopts the budget amendment. The previous superintendent has returned to operator and is being paid his salary as an operator. This move is also effective Aug. 24, Parks said. He did not release any of their salaries.

None of the employees being laid off were identified by name in the letter, only by position. All of the layoffs are effective Sept. 10.

Jackson-Hicks could not be reached for comment. City employees are not allowed to talk to the media.

The driving factor behind the layoffs, Parks said, is the city’s need to reduce costs.

“The city’s budget indicates preliminarily that more reductions are necessary and will come in the areas of sworn fire and police officers, primarily,” Parks said in the letter.

One way to do this is to renegotiate the minimum staffing levels in place the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Fraternal Order of Police union contract agreements.

He said he recognizes that reducing personnel is just one of the many ways to reduce overall expenses in the city’s budget.

“Staff is exploring other ways to find efficiencies,” he said.

Some of the things he is exploring are insurance costs, legal services, engineering, construction management and workers’ compensation payments.

Some of the smaller items being looked at, Parks said, are “optimizing contract usage, cell phone use, city vehicle usage, gasoline/diesel fuel usage, and landscaping services.”

Additionally, Parks said he knows the city needs to look at ways to increase the city’s revenue.

“The city cannot continue the heavy reliance on the Casino Queen’s gaming and admission taxes. The leading factor, both short-term and long-term, is increasing the tax base by expanding industrial, commercial and residential development and collecting fees associated with the city’s laws,” Parks said.

In a category he called administration, Parks said city officials have identified potential efficiencies in human resources and they expect to find more.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.