More unapproved bonuses given in other departments
Upon further examination, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said the circuit clerk and sheriff's department also gave out end-of-the-year bonuses.
Last week, Severson reported to the Finance Committee that almost $25,000 was given in bonuses by the county clerk's, treasurer's and state's attorney's offices. In the two additional offices, there was an additional $6,100 given out.
Although these offices did nothing illegal, Severson said it has caused a morale issue among county employees who did not receive bonuses. He said the elected officials in charge of these offices should have brought their requests to the Finance Committee, and any extra money they used from their budgets for bonuses should have been returned to the county's General Fund instead since it is taxpayer money.
On Monday, Severson said it was discovered that in Circuit Clerk Karen Slattery's office, seven employees received $500 extra in the Dec. 20 payroll.
These bonuses were technically given out of the new fiscal year, he said. The bonuses from the first three departments came out of a special payroll given Nov. 29, the day before the last day of the last fiscal year.
Calls to Slattery were not returned. A member of her staff said she was at a conference until Friday. The staffer would not supply another number at which to reach Slattery.
Severson said the sheriff's department bonuses were given a little differently. They were paid out under the "Clerical Overtime" line item, he said.
In 2012, that line item budget was reduced from $7,000 to $5,000, said Severson. At the beginning of November, it still had about $3,000 in it, which means they had only used a couple thousand dollars in overtime for the clerical staff in 11 months. But at the end of November, it was down to only having about $400 left.
"So over $2,600 was used in clerical O.T. in the month of November. We believe that to be bonuses as well. I don't know why they would have that amount of O.T. in one month. It seems to be a pattern we have found," Severson said.
He continued that bonuses appeared to be taken out of "Clerical Overtime" in 2011 as well.
Both the 2011 and 2012 bonuses were done under the late Sheriff Terry Marketti, said Severson, and he has spoken with new Sheriff Kevin Callahan regarding the county board's feelings on the situation.
"I'm looking forward to working on the fiscal year 2014 budget and will justify all of the department's line items," Callahan said.
Once an elected official's budget is approved by the county board, that official can spend it how they see fit, said Severson, as long as it is legal. But he said the action of these office holders giving out bonuses is unethical.
"It's terrible for morale. I'm getting calls from employees saying, 'Our employees work hard, too,'" he said.
When Severson presented the bonuses given out of the county clerk, treasurer and state's attorney's offices to the Finance Committee, he did not share the specific amounts that were given out of each office. Monday, he provided the numbers to the Morris Daily Herald.
From County Clerk Lana Phillips' office, about $6,900 was given, Severson said.
The bonuses were taken out of designated salary portions of the budget, said Phillips last week. It came from the salary line item of her portion of the General Fund, and out of the salaries and "extra clerk" lines of her Record Document Storage Fund. The document storage fund comes into the clerk's office, but is not levied for by the county.
"I wanted to compensate them. They had an extraordinary year with the two elections they had. They went over and above what they needed to," Phillips said previously.
From County Treasurer Marcy Miller's office, $10,000 was paid in the special payroll Nov. 29, said Severson. This was taken out of her salary line item as well.
"I have two people and asked them to please take care of my two people," said Miller last week. "I went to two finance meetings and two budget meetings asking for them to take care of my people and they didn't."
The treasurer employees received the 2.5 percent raise last fiscal year that all the county's non-union employees received. But, with her two employees working long hours on a new system, plus the increase in insurance costs, they deserved more, Miller said previously.
She had the extra money in her budget because she had originally planned on hiring another full-time person, but instead hired a part-time person because she said it wasn't the right time for the county to take on another full-time employee.
Miller had no additional comment on the subject when called Tuesday.
"The stipends we chose to give our staff were performance based," added Phillips.
Severson said Monday county departments should not be budgeting salaries for more than the current employees they already have on staff. If they want to hire someone in the future, they should go to the Finance Committee then to discuss a new hire's salary and the budget can be amended.
From now on, human resources will be present at the budget meetings to compare all employee salaries to the salary line items the department heads are trying to budget for, he said.
"If you're going to hire someone it has to be approved then and money allocated then. Because if they don't hire someone for six months, there is six months of salary (left in the budget.) . . . we have to get away from having extra money in there to pay out as bonuses," Severson said.
The state's attorney's office also gave out bonuses under former State's Attorney John Bates, said Severson. About $5,100 was given out and a portion of it was taken from non-salary line items.
At last week's Finance Committee meeting Severson repeatedly said bringing this to light was not political and that all the county offices were being looked at.
But David Welter, county board vice chairman, pointed out that those first three offices were all held by Democrats.
This week's revelations included a Republican office holder, Circuit Clerk Slattery.
Grundy County Coroner John Callahan chimed in at last week's finance meeting saying he returned $2,200 when his office did not use all of its budgeted funds for additional on-call deputies.
It was questioned how this was possible when Callahan had to have his budget amended in December because he was about $10,000 over budget. He had budgeted $224,041 for expenditures and his budget was amended to $235,241, according to the amended budget from December.
According to treasurer's fund balance report for November, the coroner's office's year to date expenditures in November were actually $237,734.73, so even with the amendment he would still be over budget.
Callahan explained Wednesday the two line items that caused the amendment were for toxicology services and professional services, which include autopsies, he said Wednesday. These are expenditures that vary depending on the amount of deaths in the county, and this year were over what was budgeted for.
The $2,200 was from his "Deputy Call Out" line, which is a salary expense. His salary expenses were actually under budget, and he said the extra money he had for salaries was not spent on bonuses as other offices did.
Even though his employees deserve bonuses, he said, he does not give them because that is not what unspent money in a budget is for. It should be returned to the taxpayers, he said.