VOSJ Special Meeting Erupts After Tabling of the Annual Budget, Salary Raises

By Benjamin Cox on July 30, 2021 at 8:32am

The Village of South Jacksonville’s Board of Trustees passed an ordinance of appropriations last night but did not pass a budget, causing the meeting to erupt in arguments.

Tensions in the meeting began when Trustee Megan Davidson, who is currently chair of the village’s finance committee, motioned to table passing the FY22 budget along with the 5% CPI salary increase for certain village employees.

Davidson had asked Village Treasurer Tiffanee Peters for a salary schedule during the Finance Committee’s budget hearing earlier in the month. Peters was officially on vacation at the time but told Davidson she would complete the reports and send them when she returned. Davidson says she still has not received those reports: “I sent an email and did not even get a response. Tiffanee let me know that she sent you (Mayor Tyson Manker) the information that I asked for and you would forward it on to me and I got nothing.”

Manker interrupted immediately calling it “an outright lie”. Davidson then asked for Manker to produce the emails, which were not allegedly produced during the meeting. Also, compounding the situation, Davidson said she wanted to bring certain line items before the board and not just the finance committee; which included a significant raise for Fire Chief Richard Evans Jr., purchase of a new code enforcement car because the current car is beyond its natural use, possible ways to restore the Village’s ambulance service, tracking of the village’s employees overtime, and other possible salary increases. Davidson and fellow trustees Stacy Pinkerton and Paula Belobradjic-Stewart said they could not vote on a budget until they had all the information to make an informed decision. Davidson then made a motion to table the budget and the salary increases until she received the information she was requesting. It was seconded by Pinkerton.

Trustee John Stewart then made a motion to pass the budget in its current form and leave the agenda as it was. The motion died for a lack of a second. Davidson’s original motion passed 4-1 with Stewart voting “no” and Trustee Mike Broaddus abstaining because he explained he was out of town during the budget hearing process and could not attend. The appropriations ordinance passed 4-1, again with Stewart the lone “no” vote.

Trustee Stacy Pinkerton and Manker also argued over a line item upping the Mayor’s office operation costs. Pinkerton says that precedent was that the Mayor’s office received $2,500: “You got $12,000 down [in that line item]. Why on earth would you need $12,000 on a yearly budget?”

Manker replied by saying that he did not put the total in the budget and he said secondly, he is working as a full-time mayor, unlike others in year’s past: “We’ve never had a full-time mayor. If you want to logjam my operations, if you don’t want me to meet with Congressman [Darin] LaHood to contact the FCC to work on our cellular connectivity problem, if you want me to be a part-time mayor, it would be hard for me to do. Because I’m going to be in here (Village Hall) 50 hours a week working for $1,000, after taxes about $800 a month. 50 hours. I’m an attorney with 8 years [experience].” Manker also noted that business cards for the village trustees and some other miscellaneous items come from his operational expenses and not other places, leading to the significant increase.

Pinkerton interrupted Manker’s statements at that point and said it didn’t matter about his previous experience, returning to the precedent that previous village presidents and mayors had only operated with the previous $2,500 budget limit.

Pinkerton went on to ask if the village footed the bill for Manker’s trip to Washington D.C. Manker said no because he had spent his own money to attend a wedding and said he was insulted by the question and the exchange got more heated. Manker asked why Pinkerton would bring up something that he had paid for himself and called Pinkerton “out of her mind” for questioning the situation. Pinkerton said it was her job as a trustee to go over every line of the budget.

Trustee Mike Broaddus attempted to cool the situation by likening his trip with his family to Washington D.C. during the Scot Fitzgerald Memorial while he was a representative of the Village Police Department.

Manker said prior to the arguments that department heads were to meet in his office at 9AM today to get the salary information to disseminate to Trustee Davidson. Manker then adjourned the meeting without an official voice vote to adjourn before leaving the chambers. Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart and Trustee Pinkerton officially ended the meeting with motions eventually calling the voice vote. As of the end of the meeting, no committee of the whole or official meeting has been set to sort out the budget issues.