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Paranoid? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 08 August 2006 22:35

The City of Davenport's leadership continues to decline on so many levels that redemption is no longer possible with the current players.

Beyond the complete abdication of the public trust because of a long list of ethically dubious actions - including the fast-tracking of the high-risk, financially inequitable development agreement for the Isle of Capri's casino hotel on our downtown riverfront, the serious cost overruns at Prairies Heights, the RiverCenter scandal with contracted private manager, the attempt to burden taxpayers with the Market District and Crossings proposals that would only benefit private development, John O'Donnell's financial problems, mismanagement of critical deterioration of infrastructure (sewers, roads, etc.), parking-ramp deficits, key personnel layoffs because of budget prioritizing, to name the most recent fiascoes - conditions have potentially entered the criminal arena with the revelation of City Administrator Craig Malin's three self-imposed pay raises in a year's time.

From July 2005 through July 2006, Malin gave himself three cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) amounting to better than $6,000. This was over and above the salary increase that took effect during this same time period (January 1, 2006), bringing his base pay from approximately $126,000 to $150,000 plus.

I do not take issue with his salary. Nor is $6,000 in and of itself egregious. It is the means by which these raises were accomplished that offends. The good news here is that the much-needed lifting of the veil to expose the underhandedness that prevails in City Hall has finally begun.

Malin claims he is entitled to these COLAs because he falls into the same employment category as department heads, most of whom routinely receive COLAs as part of their compensation. The difference is that department heads operate under standard employment agreements, while the city administrator operates under a negotiated contract.

According to Davenport's legal department, there is no provision for COLAs in Malin's contract - a contract that he drafted himself and negotiated directly with the city council without the oversight of the legal department. This alone represents a curious departure from professionalism on the part of the city council. Since Mayor Brooke was also an attorney, perhaps he gave it his professional blessing at the time. Either way, certain provisions in Malin's contract are arguably absurd in that they weigh unreasonably more in Malin's favor than the city's (or taxpayers'), especially with regard to severance pay.

Even if an argument could be made for the fact that Mayor Ed Winborn and former Mayor Brooke both approved COLAs for Malin, what entitles him to two in a year's time, when other employees are only given a single COLA increase annually?

This is but one overstep in a rapidly growing list that demands accountability. Sadly, that is not likely if last week's gross display of incompetence by Alderman-at-Large Jamie Howard - the mayor pro tem - along with aldermen Brooke, Barnhill, and Frink, upon instruction from Mayor Winborn, is any indication. All four walked out of the meeting without any explanation to the public to avoid confronting Malin's newly exposed infraction.

This course of action clearly demonstrates that the mayor and these four aldermen are incapable of conducting themselves in the professional manner required by their positions. If there was any doubt before as to Alderman Howard's inability to properly lead, she certainly eliminated it as mayor pro tem with her cowardly act of running from the situation rather than dealing with it appropriately as circumstance dictated. Unfortunately for Howard, her role models are no better.

So what happens from here? The city council is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. Thursday, and an executive session is the only agenda item.

Certainly if Malin did breach his contract, even his favorable contract can't protect him from prosecution or provide him with an extravagant severance package. It is rumored that he has cleaned out his office already, but city staff reported Tuesday that he was still present and employed. It is unlikely that he will be prosecuted, but certainly he should be relieved of his position if he is culpable. However, if both mayors were complicit in this conveyance, then they also must be held accountable for their individual breaches.

What had better not happen is a deal brokered by the mayor (on behalf of those who control his strings) to allow Malin to leave his position with full severance and a positive recommendation. Although at least five aldermen would likely oppose this course of action, if the mayor called a special session and presented such a scenario, he would likely get at least four supporting votes, allowing him to veto the remaining six opposing votes to such an outcome. The other, more familiar scenario of a five-five vote with the mayor breaking the tie could prevail. Either way, this solution (compounded by such a manipulative strategy to see it done) would be unconscionable and completely unacceptable to the public, not to mention political suicide for those that perpetrated it upon us.

Then the bigger question would loom larger than life: What would possess these folks to offer to pay Malin not to prosecute him, but instead leave as if nothing untoward had occurred? What could possibly motivate such an outcome? It would suggest something terrible was being protected.

Hopefully, the above scenario is nothing more than my own paranoia rising from one disappointment after another relative to this administration, the current mayor, and five predictable aldermen (Brooke, Howard, Barnhill, Frink, and Dumas) whose allegiance is clearly not to the taxpayers of Davenport, but to the agendas of special interests.

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