Accounting supervisor asking Urbana council to save job

Accounting supervisor asking Urbana council to save job

URBANA — A city employee is asking council members to save her job after being slated for elimination in Mayor Laurel Prussing's annual staff appointments.

About 30 city employees who hold their jobs by virtue of mayoral appointment must be reappointed annually in order to stay in those positions. The list of Prussing's reappointments will be up for approval when the city council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

This year, the only exclusion on the list is Accounting Supervisor Liz Walden, who will lose her job as of July 1 if the appointments pass. Walden, who is married to former Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Walden, said she has been given no reason for what could become her termination after 24 years with the city of Urbana.

Prussing said she has not reappointed four people in her eight years as mayor. One of those four people was Bruce Walden, whom Prussing did not allow to return as the city's chief administrative officer in 2007. The position was never filled, though the mayor did hire a chief of staff in 2009.

Prussing cited personnel issues when she did not invite Bruce Walden to return, as she is now doing with Liz Walden.

Her decision is based on "events that have been happening that I found out about," Prussing said.

Prussing's termination of the chief administrative officer became a political issue in the years that followed, though Prussing says her decision to not reappoint Liz Walden has nothing to do with her tenuous history with Bruce.

"I would say that this is based on the individual and not other things," Prussing said.

Liz Walden is trying to highlight her "outstanding work record" with the city. As the accounting supervisor, she prepares paychecks, pays city bills and ensures revenues are properly billed and collected. She said she has also been acting as a de facto deputy comptroller while the finance department goes through a proposed reorganization.

"I was never given a reason why I was not reappointed," Walden said.

Walden met or exceeded all evaluation points in a work appraisal completed on Jan. 24 by then-Comptroller Ron Eldridge, who has since retired.

In his evaluation, Eldridge wrote "Liz's accounting skills are unique and not found in city's (sic) of Urbana's size." He also said Walden serves as an "excellent example for others" and her training skills improved the work of two people under her supervision.

"I do not understand why I am being targeted," Walden wrote in a letter to city council members. "No Urbana employee has ever been terminated due to a reorganization. Something is very wrong here. I want to keep my job."

Prussing said she "took a hard look at" Walden's employment and said her decision was based on "some personnel issues that arose." She also said this is a different situation than her decision to not reappoint Bruce Walden in 2007.

"We don't have to rehash that, but he's lobbying for her, and they're distorting what the situation is," Prussing said.

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kevhead71 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 8:06 am

"About 30 city employees who hold their jobs by virtue of mayoral appointment must be reappointed annually in order to stay in those positions."

What a terrible position to be in as an employee.  This sounds like politics as usual in Urbana.  I think Prussing owes this employee and the public a better explanation as to what is really going on here.   I'm guessing that "some personnel issues that arose" simply means that the Mayor doesn't like you.

selguy wrote on June 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

The mayor is opening up a spot for Deb Lissak.

rsp wrote on June 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

After 24 years of exemplary service and "suddenly" there is some obscure reason to get rid of someone? In the middle of a reorganization? I hope the council stands behind her and does the right thing. Why is this kind of position classed that way? Can you even imagine a new person every year?

sweet caroline wrote on June 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

Somethin's fishy.  Prussing can call it "personnel" reasons, but I have a feeling the correct term is "personal" reasons.  Boy, oh boy, Urbana employees must feel like they're walking on eggshells, careful not to upset Dear Leader. 

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

I don't understand why the residents of Urbana continue to vote for Prussing to be their mayor.  Why would you give the mayor the power to decide who is allowed to keep their job and doesn't?  Is there no Union for Urbana employees?  She allowed her Chief of Staff, Mike Monson, to keep his job after he was arrested for a DUI.  She said that it was a "personal matter" and had nothing to do with his job.  How does a City allow an unstable or incompetent person to decide who gets to keep their job from year to year and who doesn't?  

Mayor Prussing hands over millions of dollars to restore the old Jumers Lodge and it was a flop; and, she doesn't understand how the City of Urbana lost millions of dollars when Carle no longer has to pay property taxes; and she acts as if it comes as a surprise to her?  Does she not know what is going on other than "she heard things" in regards to a Urbana employee, so she is going to terminate her?  What kind of leader is that?  Is there no Due Process other than its personal?  WOW! Urbana, really????? You realize that everyone is laughing at you, right?

Again, I don't understand why the residents of Urbana continue to vote for Prussing to be their mayor. Come on residents of Urbana,..stand up and choose a strong leader to lead your city!

spangwurfelt wrote on June 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

"I don't understand why the residents of Urbana continue to vote for Prussing to be their mayor."

Rex Bradfield.

woopitydo wrote on June 17, 2013 at 11:06 am

42000 people living in Urbana..... 2000 voted in the last mayoral race.

Sandy wrote on June 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm

There is absolutely nothing "tenuous" in the Mayor's history with Walden. Tortuous is more like it.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on June 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The Goad Lady strikes again;  maybe she's diverting money to the legal funds for the Olympian Drive debacle; or has to buy new books for the library.

WOW wrote on June 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Ok, so both Champaign's and Urbana's mayors are off-balanced and suffer from abuse of power issues? Maybe they could get a group rate on therapy. Then again, it could be a pre-requisite for Illinois mayors. Just look at Chicago.

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

WOW, you are so right! 

Discouraged wrote on June 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

How discouraging it is to live in Urbana and have a Mayor decide someones fate after 24 years over personal issues. No personnel matter should ever have one person, mayor or not be the deciding factor. None of the 30 city employees should be put in this position. 

Mayor Prussing - I do not want to be paying the legal fees when the City gets sued and they win over your personal vendetta. 

Mayor Prussing being reelected and basically no one voted. That should have told you something. I voted in the election but did not vote for you. Sadly, I also felt like the other candidate was not in the City's best interest and did not vote for him either. My intent was tovote for the people I felt were qualified and to make the point that you no longer have the support of the people of Urbana. Start doing what is right and what you were elected to do, not handle your own agenda. 

Hopefully the City Council will stand up for what is right and not just bow down to Mayor Prussing.

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Discouraged, I totally agree with your powerful statement -  very well written!  I do not live in Urbana; but, why do you suppose a qualified Urbana resident has not stepped up to run for Mayor?  I think Urbana is a lovely community and it could potentially be so much more.....

cretis16 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Urbana will never under any circumstances vote Republican...we lost all sense of sanity when Mayor Markland left, and Joe Whelan left the city council. Now, it's Obama + at the local out all businesses with goofy taxes, and tax the be-jesus outta who's ever left. An empty hotel gets tons of bucks, and a sidewalk across a drainage ditch get's a blank check. All the while inching up property taxes. But you must remember, a local article in News-Gazette posted that.." 49% of all Urbana residents are employed by some form of government."'s a real sad note...the property taxes in Urbana are so out of synch, that my uncles house in east Urbana has a higher per month property tax payment than per month house payment?

Marti Wilkinson wrote on June 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I'm a liberal bleeding heart myself, and even I think that some of the expenditures in Urbana are dumb. I don't understand the money that got poured into the hotel, and some of the other expendictures. So, I'm inclined to have no sympathy when Prussing complains about the tax exemption that Carle is receiving. I once had an Urbana resident ask me in absolute horror why I chose to live in Champaign, and I responded cheaper property taxes and access to local businesses.

cretis16 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Not to worry...she can always follow her husband to a bigger paycheck at U of I. I think Bruce was un-employed for 48 hours, then " CHA CHING"..jackpot!!

EdRyan wrote on June 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Whoever is mayor has the power of appointment for the position so there isn't much anyone else has to say about the matter.

Marti Wilkinson wrote on June 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

In an election cycle people often end up voting for who is the lesser of two evils. The alternative to Prussing just wasn't seen as a viable option for the people of Urbana. It is kind of sad that we don't vote for the best person for the job and we cast our ballots for the person who will do the least amount of harm.

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Then why doesn't a qualified Urbana resident step up and run for mayor instead of Urbana residents complaining about their leader?

lcoil79 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Would you want to be elected, inherit the mess the city has become, then get blamed when 3 months after the election you haven't been able to get anything changed?  Any smart qualified Urbana resident is staying far away from that stinking pile of an elected position. 

Unfortunately, as was stated earlier, we have not had a strong opposing candidate from any party that wouldn't be as bad or worse than the MFL.  So it's been a case of vote for the lesser evil and not the best candidate, too bad Prussing doesn't see it that way.  Those rose colored glasses she must wear all the time probably alter her thinking as well, but I can't really say much since I voted for her the last 2 times.  Lesser of the two evils kinda sucks when it's your only real option, stick with the evil you know and not the one you don't.

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Refresh my memory,...didn't Prussing run for several other elected positions and lose prior to landing her mayor job?

Marti Wilkinson wrote on June 17, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Prussing has been Champaign County Auditor, State Representative, and she sat on the county board. So her political career has been a long standing one. It wouldn't surprise me if she chose to retire after she serves out her term as mayor. The only thing I really have ever taken issue with has been her stand on Carle Clinic, and that is because her perspective has an impact outside of the boundaries of Urbana. The question that I have had on that is, If the city had better managed it's resources, would she really have created such a big stink?

In regards to my opinion on the current story, that is something that the voters of Urbana will ultimately need to address to their council members. Personally, I think municipal employees need union protection and an element of due process to protect them from what could be petty politics. I don't think that any employee who has performed his/her duties in good faith should be subject to the whims of elected officials or public opinion (this includes members of law enforcement).

If we strictly go by what the News-Gazette has published, it would look like a competant employee is being let go, simply because the mayor doesn't like her. With all due respect to the writers and publishers, I'm not inclined to give them credit for any real in-depth reporting. As such, out of fairness, I also have to say that there may be stuff going on that we honestly don't know about. I would suggest that the reporters dig a little deeper, and maybe ask a few questions.

Discouraged wrote on June 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I just watched the entire City Council meeting. Mayor Prussing was not a happy mayor. In my opinion she was totally unfair to put off a personnel meeting of the council on this issue until July 9th. ( I may be off by a day or two) She acted like she was doing them all a favor. She did not like being criticized or challenged and is not a graceful loser.To watch her after the meeting smile and put on her fake smile for the cameras was most disturbing. Urbana people we have seemed to create a monster who does what she wants when she wants. Very sad for Urbana and embrassing. I wanted to believe it was the paper and misrepresentation but clearly that is not the case.

alumni90 wrote on June 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Refresh my memory,...didn't Prussing run for several other elected positions and lose prior to landing her mayor job?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on June 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm
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To alumni90's question: It's a half-time job, so it doesn't pay very well. On the other hand, I recall it paid $51k five years ago, and last I heard it was $67k. So I guess Laurel gave herself a raise, as well as paying herself that bonus which was meant or non-elected staff only.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Urbana has enough egotistic individuals who could run for the mayor's job.  Most of them would attempt to do the job just for the title. 

Is a mayor really necessary?  What about a city council with a business manager?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on June 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm
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Urbana has a dual system. It's "strong mayor" per lllinois law, but city manager by ordinance.  Except that this mayor has been evading that second law for 6 years now.