DeCusatis defends against proposed cuts to his salary, benefits and assistant

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis was asked to speak for a second time about proposed cuts to his department at the Budget Committee hearing last Tuesday. The council had previously proposed cutting his assistant’s salary from the budget and rolling back the 2% raise that DeCusatis received in last year’s budget. But Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler began the conversation by announcing they also wanted to cut his benefits.

“Your secretary is cut…you are a part-time corporation counsel by charter. Therefore you are not entitled to full-time benefits which would be the pension plan and the insurance plan. So those will be cut,” said Hatzenbuhler.

“I believe my appointing resolution indicated that those things are included. So you may want to re-calibrate your thinking process,” replied DeCusatis.

Alderman Ron Barone then brought up a statement made by DeCusatis earlier in the year saying, “I thought resolutions were only good for one year. The corporation counsel one day stated to me that all resolutions done by this council are only good for one year….are there certain resolutions that last longer and other resolutions that die?” asked Barone, “Gerry, can you tell me what the difference is?”

“The corporation counsel is appointed by the mayor with the approval of the council. The appointing resolution with the terms of the appointment were set at the time I was appointed. So you can’t de-rail that train and mess with it,” explained DeCusatis.

“You can do anything, you can rescind anything,” said Barone.

“Of course you can. This will land us back in litigation,” said DeCusatis.

“Well, what’s new?” said Barone. “I definitely want to see your resolution…if it’s in front of me in black and white…you’re entitled to it, you’ll get it.”

Hatzenbuhler then said, “If [the appointing resolution] says that we have to pay you your pension, which you’re not entitled to, and your insurance, which as far as we are concerned you’re not entitled to, we’ll reduce your salary.”

“The salary was set in the appointing resolution as well,” said DeCusatis. “Any employee of… any municipality has a right to participate in the retirement system.”

“Only if they’re a full-time employee,” said Hatzenbuhler.

“That’s not true, you participate as an alderman if you so elected,” said DeCusatis.

“But I only get two hours credit. You’re getting exceptional credit as a matter of fact,” said Hatzenbuhler, “according to the resolution last year you’re claiming … 6 hours a day for 20 days a month. There’s no way you’re spending 6 hours a day on city business or we would not have a lot of the issues going on in the city right now.”

DeCusatis asked for details as to the issues she was talking about. Hatzenbuhler then referenced two incidents of workplace violence at the city and said that the city was not yet in compliance with state rules as to creating a workplace violence prevention program. She said it was both DeCusatis’ and Employee Relations Director Bob Reidy’s job to produce the program.

“That is not my responsibility to produce that program,” said DeCusatis.

“But Mr. Reidy goes to you and Mr. Reidy doesn’t move unless he gets your permission. That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Well who told you that?” asked DeCusatis.

“Mr. Reidy,” replied Hatzenbuhler, “Mr. Reidy will not give us information.”

Haztenbuhler and DeCusatis then debated over the two recent incidents of reported workplace violence. Hatzenbuhler claimed the issues were still unresolved. DeCusatis stated that both incidents had been investigated, a report filed, and the issues were “essentially closed.”

Later in the exchange, Hatzenbuhler claimed that DeCusatis refused to work in an office at City Hall. DeCusatis responded that he had never been asked to move his office to City Hall, only to hold office hours. He claimed that in previous years, no one had taken advantage of his office hours, so there was no point in having an office at City Hall and that he was always available by phone or email.

Hatzenbuhler then claimed there were lack of “reverter clauses” in recent contracts for auctioned properties which would have allowed the city to take back possession of properties that did not meet certain conditions. DeCusatis replied that many of the deals had reverter clauses, but certain ones didn’t because the auction was not set up that way.

The discussion then moved on to the issue of removing DeCusatis’ assistant.

“Why do you feel that is a productive move on your part?” DeCusatis asked the council.

Barone replied that he felt that the City Clerk and her staff could handle the work that DeCusatis’ assistant was currently responsible for, which included processing the approximately 40 tickets issued by the police department each month.

“There’s no reason they can’t handle that and any other work that you have to do. And that’s why I feel you don’t need a secretary. And it’s not going to hurt you in any way. You’ll have help there.”

DeCusatis pointed out the corporation counsel has always had an assistant of some sort “for as long as records exist.”

“That’s subject to change. Anything can change,” said Barone.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.