DeKalb – Even though they had budgeted for it, DeKalb aldermen canceled the 2 percent pay raise to the city attorney’s contract.
At the same time, they had extended discussions about the necessity of employing a lobbying firm and an external economic development firm. The council was also set to vote Monday on cost-of-living-adjustments to nonunion city staff.
DeKalb aldermen voted 4-3 to cut back a projected $4,000 increase to Frieders Law, LLC, the principal lawyer of which is Dean Frieders. Aldermen Dave Baker, Monica O’Leary, David Jacobson and Mayor John Rey voted to cut it. O’Leary, Jacobson, and Baker would later vote to approve Frieders’ contract, while Aldermen Ronald Naylor and Mayor John Rey voted against it.
The discussion Monday night highlighted an ideological difference between some of the council members: Those who feel the city has moved out of financial danger, and those who feel the city is still in it.
When told that the increases were part of the “cost of doing business,” Jacobson and others scoffed at that remark.
“I think Dean does a wonderful job for us, but when you continue to give raises, and continue to do the cost of business, the ceiling runs out,” Jacobson said.
Interim City Manager Rudy Espiritu repeated several times throughout the night that all of the individual items – from the human services agreements to the contracts for the city’s external partners – were already budgeted for in the fiscal 2014 budget. This was a point Naylor hammered on.
“These are all budgeted numbers,” Naylor said. “Why didn’t the discussion come up at budget time?”
The council voted 6-2 to keep mCapitol Management on board as their lobbying firm, but only after the council failed to reach a consensus on whether they should, in Jacobson’s words, “Hold off on the contract for a year.”
Lash, who also voted against rehiring mCapitol at a cost of $66,000 a year, had more of a problem with the firm’s ability to get federal money in the current congressional environment.
“It’s a recognition it is of how difficult things are right now,” Lash said. “My concern, what are we getting for the money we put into this.”
The council also voted 5-3 to keep Roger Hopkins of Hopkins Solutions on as the city’s economic development consultant. Jacobson, Lash and Baker criticized Hopkins’ apparent lack of success in attracting new businesses, as well as relying on tax incentives to bring them in.
A number of city officials, including Espiritu, came to Hopkins’ defense, pointing out that he is following the council’s current policies.
“We are asking Roger to focus on retail and commercial. That is by design,” Espiritu said. “The incentives – this is why we have the discussions with the City Council – as the policies currently written, he’s following that policy. He’s doing what the policy entails.”