By Karen Cornelius
The Legislative Committee of city council met on Monday night, April 9, and heard a request from law director Kenneth Stumphauzer to make some changes in the law department’s compensation covering hourly rates, and the pay for the city prosecutor’s position as well as the clerk/parahegal’s position with the court. The law director presented draft legislation for council’s consideration. After discussion, it was decided by the committee to amend the ordinances currently on the books involving the requests for the law department and then presenting the amended legislation to add to city council’s future agenda for a vote rather than using the law director’s new draft.
The law director gave the committee an overview of the proposed changes and said they could discuss it in executive session but that wasn’t necessary since the draft legislation would have to be passed in public, He said his concern is that two prosecutors share one salary with one prosecutor prosecuting for a full day and the other prosecuting for two-thirds of the day. The prosecutor’s position hasn’t had a raise in eight years. He said due to the city’s financial condition, he is only asking for a $25 per month increase which will qualify both prosecutors for OPERS health benefits. The salary is divided proportionately, The $25 a month increase comes to $300 per year. He proposed the compensation for the city of Vermilion prosecutor be increased from $35,000 to $35,300.
He next explained in the prosecutor’s office there is a paralegal who handles all the administrative matters such as issuance of subpoenas, docket calls, and more. This person supports charges, responses to motions, does search warrants and notifies victims of every step taken in court now that Marcy’s Law has passed giving victims more rights. the paralegal also meets with the victims. The paralegal position pays $15.53 an hour and the law director is proposing the rate be increased to $17.53 per hour for a 20-hour week. The $2 per hour raise computes to $2,080. Stumphauzer said he confirmed that this raise would cost the city $2,444 for increasaed PERS payments, unemployement, etc. If adding the prosecutor’s increase to the parahegal’s increase the total would be $2,744. “To cover that cost, I have reduced the law director’s salary from the current $25,500 to $22,755,” said Stumphauzer. “So, this is revenue neutral. My salary has been reduced by the money given to the paralegal and the prosecutor’s position.”
Legislative chair Monica Stark pointed out that the law director also wanted to raise his hourly rate in the draft he presented. Stumphauzer stated that the current rate is not feasible any more. He said it should be $225 per hour which was what he was charging before the $175 per hour was put in place in January of 2018. The law director said the hourly rates he was proposing are for any law firm the mayor chooses to hire, not just his firm of Walter Haverfield LLP. He said the $225 per hour is for collective bargaining, negotiations, employee disciplinary matters, arbitrations and services related to employee matters. That for all legal services other than basic legal services performed at the request of the mayor or council the rate would be $250 per hour for litigation, administrative legal proceedings, workers’ compensation, and appeals.
Councilman Steve Holovacs said council already had an ordinance for Stumphauzer’s pay done in January of 2018. He asked why they just couldn’t amend this ordinance to adjust the pay rather than use the draft legislation the law director presented. He said they could amend the $175 per hour. Stumphauzer said he didn’t even realize council had by motion passed an ordinance for $175 per hour, but he is currently charging that amount. However, he can no longer do it that way, it’s below standard and the city is already getting a preferential rate for the $225 and $250. He gave examples of what other lawyers are charging and what bond counsel charges which could be in excess of $500 per hour.
The committee decided the law director could give council the amendments for a first reading.