By: Diane Benjamin
Instead of approving the acting Mayor’s comment, I decided it needs it’s own story:
The Illinois Department of Labor is immaterial when giving away taxpayers dollars. Where in the law does it say you CAN give away taxpayer dollars? If your employees are underpaid, why didn’t you give them $1000 each? Why not $2000?
I’m glad you appreciate your employees, but nowhere in the law does it give the Board permission to express gratitude with money stolen from taxpayers. If you have a surplus because of vacancies, give it back to the people who actually earned it!
If you got this advice from your lawyer, look for a new one. Illinois is a Dillon’s Rule State:
Dillon’s Rule construes grants of power to localities very narrowly. The bottom law is — if there is a question about a local government’s power or authority, then the local government does NOT receive the benefit of the doubt. Under Dillon’s Rule, one must assume the local government does NOT have the power in question.
In other words, if the law doesn’t specifically give you permission to hand out money, you can’t. The acting mayor didn’t use laws for municipalities to justify Christmas bonuses. She couldn’t, it isn’t there.
My Name is Rhonda Baer. I am the acting President/Mayor of the Village of Carlock. Since nobody, including the author of this blog post, called to ask for clarification about the information that we willingly and openly provided earlier this week, I thought I would shed some light on our decision and correct some inaccuracies reported above.
First of all, there are several types of bonuses defined by the Illinois Department of Labor. There are earned bonuses, gratuitous bonuses and discretionary bonuses. Diane is partially correct when she says that employee contracts are required for employees to receive bonuses, but only as it pertains to EARNED bonuses where employees have an expectation of receiving a bonus when required conditions have been met by both parties. In those cases, employee contracts that include the criteria required to receive the earned bonus are mandatory. Gratuitous and discretionary bonuses are different, however, and do not require an employee contract. Gratuitous bonuses do not obligate the employee to meet certain criteria, nor is the employer obligated to give them. Discretionary bonuses are bonuses where the earning criteria of the bonus is indefinite or uncertain, but is usually tied to performance. All types of bonuses are income and have to be taxed as income whether they are paid in cash or another form such as gift certificates. The bonuses we approved and paid this year fall under the gratuitous bonus category and they were all run through our accounting department as income and will be reflected on their 2019 W2s. Additionally our decision was reviewed by our attorney.
It is true last year the village received a donation for the payment of gift certificate bonuses (which were also run through accounting as income). We were very appreciative of that/those benefactor/s. However, this year we had no such benefactor/s, and because our budget for salaries was very favorable due to the fact that we went several months with a couple vacant positions, the board approved the purchase of $610 worth (approx. 10% of the salary budget EXCESS) of gift certificates to be given to our employees. $100 each was given to our 5 main employees: the water superintendent, the water assistant, the clerk, the treasurer and the maintenance employee. These folks don’t get paid a lot, they don’t get thanked enough, and they are the frontline when it comes to dealing with problems and complaints. They rarely miss a day of work and never complain. They are dedicated to this community and professional in their jobs. They keep this town running. . .not just for the board members but for all Carlock residents. Additionally we approved $50 to our school crossing guard who rarely misses a day and greets every single car with a smile and wave. . .every single one, $10 to the back-up crossing guard who isn’t needed often, but is still a valuable part of our team when she is needed, and $25 each to the two people who have watched the library door during our meetings that run after library hours. They may be public employees, but they are still employees worthy of being appreciated for their efforts and jobs well done. We could have approved these bonuses as a cash bonus, but we chose to approve them as gift certificates purchased from two or our local retail businesses so that they, too, benefitted by our decision.
I am fully aware that as a board member I represent the residents of Carlock, not just myself. I was elected to make decisions on behalf of the residents for the betterment of the community. One of those responsibilities of public purpose is making decisions, including compensation, to ensure we maintain capable, experienced, and dedicated staff and bonuses are not an uncommon form of compensation.
I hope this clears up any questions you all may have. I have always been very public about my contact information and welcome any questions, comments, complaints, and/or suggestions. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is: 309/275.8451. Hard for me to take a call before 1:30pm on a workday, but I will happily return a call if you leave a voicemail. Texts and emails are great anytime.