Champaign to consider hiring ex-Urbana official for UC2B transfer

CHAMPAIGN — The city of Champaign would pay up to $83,500 to have former Urbana comptroller Bill DeJarnette handle the transfer of Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband from government hands into a nonprofit agency if the city council approves of the move this week.

DeJarnette, who also acted as information services manager for Urbana, resigned from his post in June after a controversial dismissal in his department. He cited a "toxic" work environment in announcing his resignation publicly during an Urbana City Council meeting.

Earlier in that meeting, Accounting Supervisor Liz Walden had effectively been dismissed from her job by Mayor Laurel Prussing. Walden was classified as an employee appointed annually at the will of the mayor, and in a controversial move, Prussing did not ask her to return at the beginning of the new fiscal year.

DeJarnette, however, has been deeply involved in the development of Big Broadband since its inception several years ago, and officials are looking to retain his expertise during a critical transition for the high-speed Internet network.

DeJarnette has continued working with Big Broadband officials since his resignation from his official position with the city of Urbana. The contract before the city council on Tuesday would extend his leading role and allow him to continue working with Big Broadband full-time through the transition period, according to a city council memo.

Earlier this summer, city council members chose to spin Big Broadband off into a private, nonprofit entity as opposed to its current status as a public agency held by the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois. That transfer will roll out over the next several months, and city officials say it will put the network in a better position to operate and expand in the future.

If the Champaign City Council approves the $83,500 contract — based on a negotiated $57.88 hourly rate — with DeJarnette this week, he will be a leader in that process.

City officials hope Big Broadband customer-generated revenues will cover DeJarnette's pay. If it does not, Champaign will pay 42 percent, Urbana will cover 25 percent and the UI will cover 33 percent of the total, according to a memo to the city council.

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WTPayne wrote on September 17, 2013 at 6:09 am

The unilateral re-classificaiton of a civil service employee to one who serves at the pleasure of the mayor should be invistaged by the Illinois State's Attorney's office as a criminal matter.