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Facts & FOIAs Revisited

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Part of my most recent foia has been returned, and no shock here, a vast majority of the information was denied.  Here is a copy of the request: Click Here.  You’ll notice that most of the documents that I requested were specifically to determine whether or not the information that the Village Manager and/or other Public Officials has distributed to the public were based on their own thoughts or if they had actual documentation that proved, or at least backed up what they were saying.  A Vast majority of information was denied as exempt under 2 different reasons: Some because the documents were part of the collective bargaining process and therefore could not be released either because they were protected by the exemption, or because they were not able to be released due to federal or state laws.  The others because they were documents that were preliminary (in other words – didn’t represent a final decision) or contained opinions.


So let’s take a moment to examine these – first, if documents are protected by federal or state law from release, why is the village releasing any information in the first place?  Wouldn’t the information release that was put out have therefore been a violation of federal or state laws?  Second, if it was protected contract bargaining, again, why would the village put out information that it shouldn’t have.  Third, if information is based upon a preliminary document or those documents contain opinions, why would the village not indicate that what they are saying was based on opinion instead of leading the public into believing it was fact.  These denials of course will be reviewed by the Public Access Counselor, but ultimately – for the public, we can infer what is going on – Village Officials can say whatever they want, but when it comes time to back it up – they can’t.  Given that, can we really trust what any official – elected or appointed – really says?

So onto the documents that were turned over during the FOIA process:

First, let’s address what the Village has said on a constant basis: The reductions in staff, new “staff model” and now the 2 additional layoffs will not affect the level of service to the residents.  We can say, unequivocally that was a lie.  Manager Rooney didn’t mis-speak, he didn’t misunderstand, he and the department heads have had this information in their hands far longer than I have, and certainly long enough to ask questions about the implications.  In September of 2013, according to the Fire Response FOIA, the fire department had an average response time to emergency medical calls that took 3:54.  It’s average response to Fire Calls was 3:43.  While the response to fire calls was pretty good, the EMS average was already really close to 4 minutes, which, as we’ve discussed on previous occasions, brain death starts to occur around the 4 minute mark when a patient isn’t breathing on their own.  The FOIA’d response times are all available in the downloads section under the FOIA category.  So let’s take a look at October’s numbers, which is when the board’s new “staffing model” was put into effect.  The EMS average response was 4:10, and the Fire average response was 3:17.  Quite a difference.  Let’s look at why this is.  First, Station 2’s manning was 3 people, which means that an Engine OR an Ambulance was able to respond.  Station 1’s manning was 5, meaning an Engine OR Tower was in service AND an Ambulance was in service.  In an effort to keep the response times as low as possible, Station 2’s engine was first due on everything, and ambulance calls in that area took station 1’s ambulance as first due for the east and central areas of the town.  Because that area’s engine was always the first to be dispatched, the Fire response numbers went down, where station 1’s ambulance being first due to the east side meant longer response times, considering that station 2’s ambulance was unmanned for any second calls that came in and that forced East Dundee to have to respond to our town instead of the unmanned ambulance, thereby increasing the response times.  If we look at subsequent months, November and December, we see ever increasing response times for both Fire and EMS.  In January, with the approval of the amendment to the Full Time contract, we see a turn for the worse.  Despite the village’s claims that the apparatus would be all staffed AND that manning would rise to their previous levels, this didn’t occur.  But the shifting of station personnel proved to be even worse for the village residents.  Station 1, now manned with 3 personnel and only able to staff 1 of the 3 vehicles at that station at a time, station 2 with 4 personnel and being able to man 2 vehicles at a time and station 3 manned with 3 or 4 personnel depending on sick time use by full or part time personnel was staffed with either 1 manned vehicle or 2.   The EMS Average is now 4:46, which is an additional 52 seconds compared to September!  While the Fire Response time is 5:20 – an additional 1 minute and 37 seconds higher than september.  When you call 9-1-1, every additional second counts – and it’s time that help isn’t arriving to save your family from disaster – fire or medical.  Without a doubt, the reduction in personnel not only signals a reduction in service to the residents, but it represents a clear and obvious increase to the risk we take by living in our Village.  In light of these documents from the Village, I find it nearly impossible that the Director of Public Safety was able to tell Manager Rooney that there would be no change to the service level in the community in the Village’s public release statement on their website and emailed to residents.  

At the same time the Village claimed in a press release that the staffing would increase as a result of the amendment to the full time firefighter’s contract, internally, during one of the Chief’s meetings: B/Cs Meeting Minutes, the Battalion Chiefs were told that the minimum manning would decrease to 10.  Seriously Manager Rooney, if you are going to say something publicly, it’s probably best not to do the opposite, especially if you’d like to convince the public that you are an honest person.

On a side note, looking at the pay schedule that was included in the released documents, I’m happy to report that Manager Rooney actually was truthful about something – full time firefighters, when averaging their overtime rates, was about $45.06.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find anything that was truthful.

The FOIA’d documents also tell us some interesting information about the fiscal state of village – remember, our village that continues to experience economic impacts from the Great Recession.  At the Audit and Finance Commission meeting that I attended, it was announced that there had already been 3 or 4 budget amendments to this year’s budget, which was why the Village believes my figures to be inaccurate.  And while that’s entirely possible, those documents aren’t available anywhere.  Commission member McFaggen had the foresight to request that the Finance department add those documents to the Village Website as a supplement to the budget documents already online.  However, that hasn’t been done, shocker.  So, I requested the most recent budget amendment document.  Apparently, our village isn’t very good at word interpretation, because, despite having 3 or 4 this year already, the included budget amendment ordinance is dated April 17,th 2012 – 2 years old.  

Let’s move onto the next FOIA, the amounts paid to Clark Baird and Smith.  Despite having a law firm, Klein Thorpe and Jenkins that handles most of the Village’s legal affairs, and although Klein Thorpe and Jenkins have labor law attorneys on staff, Clark Baird and Smith represents the village in contract negotiations.  CBS Lawyers, on their website, boasts 200 years of labor and employment law experience.  They offer seminars on wide ranging topics that deal with tearing down the laws that protect public employees.  While some in the public may hail this as a good thing, let’s remember that when 2 sides clash and don’t consider the amount of money spent to push their agenda, ultimately, the taxpayers lose as they are forced to pay higher amounts for services that they shouldn’t have to.  I’d submit, this is why the village doesn’t use it’s regular attorneys, but instead has opted to go with a high-powered firm that specialize in stripping workers of their legal rights.  And what does this cost the village – cost you?  Based on that document, we can see that we’ve paid this firm $155,570.00 to represent the village during negotiations – negotiations which have not once resulted in arbitration [yet, although that may change shortly], this is the cost for just advising the village.  Let’s imagine what the costs might be if one of the unions chooses to go to arbitration to enforce their contract.  This is a pretty high amount for some advice in my opinion.

The Village did provide the Fire Department’s YTD expenditures, and it’s a good document to look at.  Being March 4th, we have 57 days left in the fiscal year, which means we are 84% of the way through the fiscal year.  Any number higher than 84% therefore is over-budget, and those lower are under-budget.  First let’s see what’s over-budget and examine why: Holiday Pay – whats interesting here is that holiday pay didn’t change with the contract, so this should have easily been anticipated.  Longevity is a moot point, the payouts have already occured and the next one won’t be until next fiscal year.  Attendance Incentive – this one, per the contract, is an incentive to not call in sick.  Not calling in sick significantly reduces the over-time expenditures, so although it’s over-budget, that couldn’t have been forseen due to the new contract, but it’s expenditure reduces the over-time budget by an amount far exceeding how much it costs.  Dues and subscriptions is slightly higher than it should be, and probably should have been properly budgeted.  Building Materials – it’s pretty clear that some things can’t be predicted, and building maintenance issues are one of them, as is vehicle maintenance costs which is also over-budget.

More importantly, let’s look at what’s UNDER BUDGET so far this year: SALARIES by 3%, OVERTIME by 30%, Part Time Fire and Seasonal 15% and 17% respectively.  Healthcare, FICA and Medicare, Training, and Supplies in General.  So, the items that Manager Rooney point as being 70% of the operating budget are all UNDER BUDGET.  Why are we laying off firefighters again?

If this one department is any indication of the other department’s current YTD expenditures, where exactly is the actual deficit? [aside perhaps between the ears of the Manager?]  (I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that, but hey, call a spade a spade, right?)

Given that the limited documents we received from the Village prove the statements that they pertain to were false, it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the Village wants to keep everything else secret – or it the proof doesn’t exist.  The public’s ability to trust our elected, and appointed officials is absolutely paramount to the functioning of our government.  Dishonesty therefore, although not a crime in Illinois, is certainly a violation of that trust, and it warrants our action.  I read an article once which brought up an interesting point – if YOU lie to the government, it’s a crime, if the government lies to you, it’s politics.  I’ve always wondered what happens when one government entity lies to another?  At what point do we as citizens finally take a stand and tell the politicians – honesty is paramount, but just as important is that the expenditure of our dollars had better be done wisely, otherwise, we will speak at the polls.

As always, Save Carpentersville will continue to work to uncover the truth and bring any public documents to light in order to increase the transparency of our Village and hold our Trustees responsible for the either the Mess they’ve created, or the Mess they’ve allowed to occur.

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