Wednesday, December 3, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 8:57 PM
The Mayor asserts that hiring an additional temp worker to man her office at times is a net benefit to the village, while some trustees and residents believe the extra spending is just another undue burden for the cash-strapped municipality
MAYWOOD || Mayor Edwenna Perkins faced heavy criticism from Lucille Redmond, one of the village’s most vigilant citizen watchdogs, at last night’s regular board meeting in the wake of revelations that the Mayor has spent about $10,000 more than the $15,000 her office is allocated each year, according to figures released by finance department head Lanya Satchell.
The bulk of that money has been used to hire a temporary worker to sit in for Jonette Greenhow, the Board’s administrative assistant, when Greenhow is either absent or overburdened with work. The temp worker is hired through Dempsey Staffing Firm, a temp agency owned by Princess Dempsey, a supporter of Mayor Perkins and Lindop School District 92 board member.
“There’s no way in hell that you need two full-time employees for a part-time mayor,” said Redmond. “It is wrong for you to bring that staffing agency up in here,” she said. “This village is broke. When does anyone have accountability for what they do around here?”
Contrary to Redmond’s claim, Greenhow is the only full-time employee hired to work in the Mayor’s office; however, her insistence that the extra hire is unwarranted has been upheld by several trustees at various points in time since Dempsey Staffing has been offering its services.
Critics of the extra hire say that the added cost is unjustified, given the village’s dire financial straits, and that the Mayor hasn’t offered a sufficiently detailed explanation for the expenses. Mayor Perkins, however, counters that the additional help is a much-needed service in a village government that sorely lacks professionalism and consistency.
“Ordinarily, this [temporary worker] doesn’t exist,” said Satchell. “This hasn’t existed in the past. We only paid a full-time employee and when that employee was absent, the office was closed or a volunteer manned the office.”
Satchell said that she believes that the same person has been hired to do temp work in the office and that the person is also hired to do work when Greenhow is present. For instance, in September, Satchell noted, the temp worker was paid $2,240 for the month and was a nearly constant presence in the office — despite the fact that Greenhow was also there.
“They’re doing double-duty,” Satchell said of Greenhow and the temp worker. She did note that line items go over budget in other village departments as well; so this isn’t unique to the Mayor’s office.
Typically, the Board amends the budget during hearings held each April to account for the unforeseen additional expenses.
“The reason why this keeps coming up is because there’s a feeling that there isn’t a need for it and we’re paying two people to do the same job,” Satchell said.
Both Mayor Perkins and Greenhow insisted that the temporary worker is typically only called in when Greenhow is absent. They said there were only two times when Greenhow and the temp worker were both present on the job at the same time.
“When I’m not here, we use the staffing agency to fill in for me so that the office isn’t unmanned,” Greenhow said.
“It’s only during my absence. We also had staffing going on during the time when we had the fire chief issue, because we received an overabundance of emails and calls. We got over 200 pages of emails. The extra person was there for maybe a day,” she said.
“Also, when the summer program was going on, we had an extra person, because [Police Chief Valdimir Talley] gave us four people to work the program and three went on vacation, so I was forced to work the grant program. So we had someone come in and fill in for me in the office. She was paid out of the $35,000 given to the summer work program. At no given time are we double-staffing,” Greenhow insisted.
In September, a controversy that involved Maywood Fire Department Chief Craig Bronaugh ordering the removal of flag decals from lockers prompted a national outcry and elicited several days of internet responses, in addition to calls and emails to the village, from all over the country. The youth summer program that Greenhow references began in July and ended sometime in August.
Mayor Perkins said that, with the exception of Redmond and several trustees, there has been no public outcry about the additional staffing.
“I haven’t gotten any calls or complaints from anyone other than the trustees,” she said, specifically naming trustees Melvin Lightford, Ron Rivers, Antonette Dorris and Audrey Jaycox. “That’s because they’re looking for something on me. Instead of working with me, they’re working against me. That’s what this is all about.”
Perkins said that part of her motivation for the extra staffing is due to her experiences as a trustee, when residents would complain to her that their calls to the mayor’s office weren’t getting answered.
“People complained about the office being closed and them not being able to get to the secretary,” she said. “The question is do we want to close the office or do we want to give the constituents the opportunity to get to the mayor. If they don’t want me to cover my office when Jonette is not there, they need to let me know and they should put it in writing and I’ll adjust it according to what [Acting Village Manager David] Myers says.”
Perkins also addressed claims that her associations with Dempsey Staffing may be politically motivated.
“Dempsey charges $14 an hour,” Perkins said. “We pay $25 an hour to the temporary services that staff other positions in the department. When Ms. Satchell needs to call contractors in, she calls on a price that’s much higher than [$14 an hour].”
Perkins said that, contrary to appearances, Princess Dempsey’s services were brought to the village’s attention by former village manager William Barlow, who she said was considering hiring Dempsey to run the village’s HR operations.
“[Princess Dempsey] is a business and she approached Mr. Barlow herself,” the Mayor said. “She has her credentials and her certifications. She approached him as a vendor. If you have a business or service, you have the right to approach the person in charge.”
“Let’s talk about political hires,” Perkins said. “Mr. Yarbrough hired his niece as the receptionist at village hall. [Trustee] Dorris works at the Park District right now and has a 401(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Isn’t that a conflict of interests?”
But some, like Trustee Jaycox, note that the larger issues residents and village officials have about the Mayor’s extra staffing go beyond a particular business. The Trustee, reinforcing both Satchell’s and Redmonds points, said that the Mayor hasn’t provided sufficient financial justification for the additional staffing.
“This isn’t about Dempsey Staffing, this is about staffing [practices in the Mayor’s office] in general,” Jaycox said.
“We don’t have room in the budget for this staffing,” Jaycox said. “I don’t feel there’s that much work coming into that office all of a sudden where we have to staff it everyday when Jonette isn’t there.
“Other departments have gone a day or two without a person,” she said. “They’ve had to adjust their priorities. If we take a look at how much money we’ve paid [for the extra staffing in the Mayor’s office] — that puts us way over budget and it continues to happen with no explanation. No other department staffs for a continuous period of time when they have a person off.”
Jaycox said that it’s an unfair to compare the temporary hiring that goes on in the Mayor’s office with that in other departments.
“If you take Public Works [for example], that’s an area that is related to the whole village, in terms of what needs to be done,” Jaycox said.
“That’s a department that operates full-time everyday. The obligation of the Mayor’s office is to the [part-time] Mayor and the [part-time members of the] Board of Trustees. If this is about answering phones — some of those calls can be diverted. You just can’t make a comparison between the Mayor’s office and other departments. This is a village manager form of government. Now, if it was a mayoral form, it would be another story.” VFP
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