Mike McDonald, St. Joseph
It’s time to replace the present council that is NOT open and transparent. Current members preach the importance of sound financial practices and agree salaries/benefits make up a massive portion of the city’s annual budget. They also state they keep citizens thoughtfully informed of their actions. A classic example of them NOT doing so is the Union Labor Agreements passed this year.
The city spent many, many months negotiating a two-year (2014-15) agreement with two unions. All of the meetings discussing the contracts were closed to the public and no minutes of them are available. On July 23, after one of those secret sessions, the council went to an open session and agreed to one of the contracts. The length of the un-televised open session was two minutes and no details of the agreement are in the minutes. The Police Union agreement was accepted by the council a couple months later. That item was on a consent agenda with absolutely no discussion by the council of its content nor as an attachment to the agenda.
The city paid $20,607.51 to an outside attorney to represent the city in the negotiations. This was in addition to the $7,671 paid just to be part of the lobbying group to qualify to use this firm. Why was an attorney needed? What did the city offer the unions and what were the unions asking for? What was the final resolution? Nobody knows because the current council keeps us in the dark.
Just as a matter of interest I compared the actual audited salary and benefit expenditures from three years ago (2012) to what is budgeted for 2015. The salary budget for 2015 is 24.67-percent higher than what was paid in 2012 and the benefit package is 31.87-percent higher than it cost in 2012. It’s impossible to say if those percentages are too high or not because citizens are unaware of what they include.