Urbana sues Walden, ex-comptroller over comp time

Urbana sues Walden, ex-comptroller over comp time

URBANA — A counterclaim against two former city employees alleges that they were fudging time sheets and, together, ultimately accepted $32,000 more in payment than they were entitled to.

The lawyer for one of those former employees said Monday that the city's counterclaim in former accounting supervisor Liz Walden's lawsuit against Urbana is "a rather desperate attempt by Urbana to browbeat Liz into dismissing her lawsuit against it." Walden sued for her job with full backpay and benefits after she was not reappointed to her position last summer by Mayor Laurel Prussing.

Prussing said Monday that the investigation by the city's team of outside attorneys shows that Walden's claim for back pay and benefits is antithetical to what was actually going on. Prussing said Walden is demanding the city pay an amount near $500,000.

"No, she owes us money in our opinion," Prussing said.

The new claim alleges that Walden and her supervisor, former Comptroller Ron Eldridge, were taking compensatory time when they knew they were not entitled to it in their managerial positions. According to the city's documents filed last week in Champaign County, the two logged time into the city's payroll system in a way that reflected they had worked a full day when they were actually absent for all or part of the day.

The claim alleges Walden did that even though her job had previously been reclassified, she had been given a pay raise and she was informed that typical benefits like overtime and compensatory time no longer applied.

Therefore, those absences should have been deducted from vacation or sick time balances, the city argues. Instead, Walden and Eldridge were paid for those artificially-inflated time-off balances when they left the city's employment — $4,164.93 for Walden and $28,042.29 for Eldridge between 2006 and 2013, according to the documents filed with the court.

The city is asking a judge to throw out Walden's lawsuit and make her repay that money to the city in addition to the city's attorneys fees. Eldridge has now been pulled into the legal dispute, too.

Eldridge could not be reached for comment on Monday. Walden's attorney, Glenn Stanko, said Monday that there's nothing wrong with what the two were doing.

"Comp time for exempt employees is perfectly legal," Stanko said. "Urbana has no policy that says its supervisor may not give employees comp time."

Stanko said the counterclaim is a "disappointing" attempt to get the upper hand in the lawsuit. He further suggested that the practice is common throughout the city, and that the fact that only Walden's and Eldridge's names were brought into the claim shows city officials' intentions.

"You kind of get the idea of what's going on," Stanko said. "It's disappointing. I think people will see it for what it is. It appears to be an effort to somehow muddy Liz Walden's name."

Walden sued the city last year after not being reappointed to her position as accounting supervisor, a job she had been in for 24 years. Her lawsuit claims that she was inappropriately classified as an "at-will" employee, one of about 30 staff members who must be reappointed annually by the mayor to keep their jobs.

Her lawsuit claims it amounts to a political firing six years after Walden's husband, Bruce Walden, was dismissed as the city's chief administrative officer.

Stanko said the city's counterclaim is another example of that.

"What you see is a continuation in the politics of personal destruction that comes out of the mayor's office," Stanko said.

Prussing said she was not aware of the alleged deceptive time-keeping going on in the city's finance department at the time she decided not to reappoint Liz Walden. But it's an example of the trust issues Prussing had with Walden.

"I was not aware of it, but due to earlier things, I did not want to appoint her because I had an issue with trusting her," Prussing said. "And I made that very clear."

Prussing also defended the city's use of The Lowenbaum Partnership law firm on Monday. She said the city discovered the time practices "because of our lawyers, who are ranked No. 1 in the United States in employment law. They did a thorough investigation, and this is what was found."

Urbana's use of the St. Louis-based law firm has come under scrutiny lately. The city's payments to it have grown to more than $260,000 this fiscal year as city officials deal with the Walden lawsuit and negotiations with three labor unions.


News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

wayward wrote on May 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Couple of questions...  1) Did Walden's and Eldridge's time add up to 40 hours a week, whenever they did the work?  2) Was the "comp time" accrued as time and a half or just straight time?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Profile Picture

Third question: Is Prussing still accepting that annual $500 bonus which is specifically intended only for civil service employees?

Rex Bradfield wrote on May 22, 2014 at 9:05 am


Here is the ILCS Statute

(65 ILCS 5/4-6-1) (from Ch. 24, par. 4-6-1) 
    Sec. 4-6-1. The mayor and each commissioner shall have an office at the municipal building or rooms, and shall devote such time to the duties of their respective offices as a faithful discharge thereof may require. 
    The total and only compensation of the mayor for the performance of his duties shall be an annual salary, which shall be established by the council prior to the mayoral election. The total and only compensation of each commissioner for the performance of his duties shall be an annual salary which shall be established by the council prior to the election in which commissioners are elected. An increase or decrease in the salary of any such official shall not take effect during the term for which he is elected. 
(Source: P.A. 85-784; 85-854.)

The operative phrase is "Total and ONLY compensation".

A few years back, the former Republician Mayor of Sidell (Lost by 1 vote) was immediately proscuted (for political reasons) by the Democrat Vermillion County States Attorney for accepting a $600 payment for doing the water supervisors job while he was on vacation. This temporary work was approved by the City Council.  He did the work, they approved it and authorized the check, but later because of political reasons charged and rather than spend $10,000 defending himself, in a plea bargan, he paid back the $600 and pleaded guilty to violating the above act which was a felony, thereby preventing him from ever running for office again.

The difference between Prussing and him was she made the comptroller cut her a check for this annual bonus, in complete disregard of Bruce Walden telling her it was illegal.  That was one of the other reasons she fired him.  Her case would be completely different from the Sidell Mayor.

What is worse, it even though another States Attorney said it was illegal, the Champaign States Attorney would not take such action because of party affiliation.  Clearly the law has been violated, but it is OK because she is of the same party and doing so would prevent Laurel from being Mayor.

787 wrote on May 19, 2014 at 9:05 pm

So now we all know what Urbana has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer's fees for...

What a collosal embarassment.  

rsp wrote on May 19, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Doesn't the payroll get approved by a council vote? Including the mayor's vote?

CU2012 wrote on May 19, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Remind me next time to vote out Prussing this town is becoming more of a joke every day

Rex Bradfield wrote on May 22, 2014 at 10:05 am

You had that chance, not once, but twice.  Will get another chance, but I honestly believe that because these things are going to require people to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth or go to jail, she is going to end up out of the office because she has committed violations of the law.

In trying to CYA she has placed Julia Reitz in a very difficult position because not it is outside the control of the Mayor's office, and into the courts where both sides get advocates and people are going to have to make a choice between lying and going to jail to protect Laurel, or telling the truth and letting her "fend" for herself.  Misappropriation of money is a felony and some of these attorneys are going to drag Julia into the fray.  Spending $300,000 on a $12,000 budget line item and not telling the Council (or the people) is not legal.

If you or I were presented with a problem, our first thoughts would be, what is the nature of the problem and what can I do to solve it.  Then we would commence to fix the problem until we had it fixed.

But when people are elected remember, it is usually the weakest that are elected because they are the easiest to control.  Their most important job is being most important. So when they are faced with a problem, they approach it in the following manner.

Would it affect our party?

How many votes will be affected?

Can effects be deflected by raising other problem issues?

When do we have to do it, can it be put off?

Will a "white lie" take care of it?


What is the nature of the problem?. etc.

Solving the problem is not most important, preservation of control and being most important is paramount.

wizard of oz wrote on May 27, 2014 at 6:05 am

I agree witb you!!

Son of a Barrelmaker wrote on May 20, 2014 at 5:05 am

Seriously, now she's dragging Ron Eldridge into this?  She makes the North Koreans look sane.

Someone needs to ask her if the exempt employees in the Auditor's Office earned comp time when she was Auditor, especially the Chief Deputy/Accounting Manager, cause I'm pretty sure they did...

787 wrote on May 20, 2014 at 8:05 am

Of course he's getting dragged into it.  Ron Eldridge defended Walden and spoke out against the City and against Prussing.

So... he needs to pay for his insolence on the matter.

wizard of oz wrote on May 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Just how low will Prussing go to try to validate her personal vendetta against Liz Walden and her supervisor? Obviously, she is getting some heat from somwhere and this is her solution??  Conspiracy accusations and more attorney fees? People of Urbana--I hope you are smart enough to get rid of this tyrant before she bankrupts the city with her vindictive agenda. Lucky her--she gets to spend everyone's hard-earned money because she can't compromise or admit fault.  Is there a city council still functioning?? Hello, if you are there, please do your jobs and take back control of your council!  No one individual should have this much power to abuse. Start thinking about the well being of the city and put a stop to this out-of-control vengence. She is a disgrace to all other women who hold positions of power.  Illinois is known for its dirty politics, and it seems someone was a very adept student. Shame on her.  I will pray for intelligence, guidance, humility, and common sense to become abundant in the near future. Please feel free to join me--divine intervention may be our only hope.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 21, 2014 at 10:05 am

Evidently, the people who bother to vote in Urbana love their mayor.  Many of us moved years ago when absurdity replaced common sense.  Urbana will continue to stagnate with it's projects for beautification, architectural ambience, and petty politics.  The best course of action would be to cease all state and federal grants to Urbana, build a wall around it, and hope that twenty years from now St. Joe annexes it.

Two cities, two fire departments, two police departments, two park districts, two city councils, two mayors, and one street dividing two communities of less than 150,000 is absurd unless your one of the few academically employed Urbana visionaries.  Urbana made it's own bed.  Let it sleep in it; and leave the rest of the county out of it, please.  We can drive around it's fringes on the way to shop in Champaign.


787 wrote on May 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

>We can drive around it's fringes on the way to shop in Champaign.

Just try to avoid Windsor Road... or as Laurel would claim.. it is all Carle's fault.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 21, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Curtis Road, Rt. 130, Rt. 45, Staley Road, Intertstates 74 and 57, Rt. 150, etc....  Windsor Road is okay past Race Street.  There are several ways to avoid driving through Urbana. 

Your right about Prussing blaming everything on Carle.  Her claim that other communities, and counties that use Carle should financially bail out Urbana is absurd.  Did you ever see Urbana share anything?  The mayor has to cool her jets now until late August when her supporters return from summer break, and doing research on the sea shore.

C-U Townie wrote on May 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

This isn't the best reflection of Urbana. It might be a cautionary tale for voters, though. Maybe motivation to get involved. Attend council meetings. Demand transparency from elected officials. It can't always be reactionary responses that flood in after events come to light that aren't pleasing to the voter eye. Voters giving implicit trust to their officials is what's gotten our country into trouble. No surprise that it's not just federal or state officials who are making significant mistakes. 

The voters are obligated to the watchdog. Now might be a time to take advantage of that role. 

Rex Bradfield wrote on May 22, 2014 at 9:05 am

This type of activity with elected officials is exactly why I got involved with trying be elected as the Mayor, but my decision was based on flawed information.  I thought that most people were as disgusted as I was about the way things were going and if given a choice would do something about it.  The flaw was, undestimating the clouding effect of hopelessiness on doing something about it.

Going to Council meetings is a waste of time.  You say something, they listen, or listen looking aside, then vote 6-1 to do what ever the Hell they want.  The Mayor sits there and manytimes you wonder who is running the show,"Who's on first".  Looking at it in simple manner always brings the hopelessiness out, for instance, there are about 26,000 voters in Urbana, do you think they voted Laurel into office because they wanted her fo fire Lize Walden?  Of course not, that had nothing to do with anything.  Then the Council says, OMG that doesn't seem right, so lets pass a resolution so it doesn't happen again.  Wowee, the barn door was open and the horse was way over the hill and they are not gonna let it happen again, Wowee.

If they were serious and really on this planet, they would have immediately passed a resolution voiding her dismissal and immediately entertained motions to change the ordinances so these high ranking managers were under contract deserving of their abilities.  Instead they say, we will protect them.  Crap, Hell Bruce Walden had a signed contract approved by the Mayor and City Council and they never protected him, most don't even know he had such a contract.  Laurel said, "we don't have contracts with officers" and because she was of the same party as them, nobody even checked.  Bruce could not sue on his contract for one good reason.  HIs wife worked for the City and out of spite Laurel would have fired her too,leaving their family without income.

But until the 20,000 voters who do not bother to vote start voting, nothing will change.  Nothing.  I pointed out all these things for the last 8 eight years, they have all come true and still the feeling is......"I hate her guts, but she will get elected anyway, so why vote".

Make no mistake about it, Laurel Prussing is for Laurel and only Laurel and if you cross her, she will HURT you, or your family or your friends or all, but she will get even.

I said that 9 years ago in the News Gazette interview of all the candidates, and was poo pooed.  Now the poo poo is smelling.

Rex Bradfield wrote on May 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Unbelievable, God if I was an employee with Urbana, I would be so worried....Ron has been gone for a year.  Why isn't this a State's Attorney matter?  Couldn't be because of Politics could it?  Didn't know this, why did she fire Liz in the first place?  If it is illegal for Liz and Ron, how about Laurel's travel expenses?  What about Laurel receiving a benefit check from the Workman's Compensation fund?  That is against state law, because she increased her salary in office.

What if Laurel asks for all employees that have talked with Liz about her dismissal.  God that hit list should make Laurel, salivate with power.  No one would be safe.

What about the City Council, who Charlie Smyth said were the watchdogs over the City?.... What did Laurel say when the fees were in excess of $300,000?...I don't know how that happened"....  Woof, Woof...nice watchdogs.....  

Here's how it happened, Laurel fired the Adminstrative Officer, Bruce Walden, then in the 2009 election campaign, she said she would do both jobs.  Apparently, Admistrative Office Laurel, did not watch Mayor Prussing.  $300,000 when the City only budgeted $12,000.

How did it happen?  They are all the same political party and it is Party over Urbana.

What a mess

SuzieD wrote on May 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

Seems to me if folks want to merge with Champaign, they should petition to do so.

And yes, political affiliations muddy the waters. Makes being of a certain persuasion or mind-set a negative.

Urbana Parent wrote on May 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm

The last few elections, it was a FACT that there was no alternative to Prussing.

Rex Bradfield? A joke in the political arena. He will never get elected in Urbana, even though his intensions seem good.

Les Stratton? No thanks. A puppet isn't what Urbana needs, and if Mr. Kelly wants to run, then he should run.

Rob Mccolley? Actually a interesting choice. A person who won't be controlled by a political party, perhaps too much of a loose cannon for Urbana to vote for.

Provide me with an actual candidate and you might get my vote....I wonder if a Walden might consider running?


Rex Bradfield wrote on May 23, 2014 at 10:05 am

I am very saddened that you feel spending the time and money to attempt to provide people with a viable candidate for office is a joke.  I can assure you it is not.  Here are some things you might consider that I have stated and offered during my campaigns and their time proven factual results.

1.  5 years ago and 1 year ago, I said the firing of the AO was a huge mistake and Urbana would suffer and never replace him while Prussing was in office

Fact:  That office remains unfilled because no viable candidate would every leave an existing job to come work for Laurel Prussing.  She fired a 30 yr officer for "Personal Reasons" and could not be trusted.  She pays an individual $80,000 a year to work for the City of Urbana, as a "Chief of Staff" and that office is not even defined in the Ordinances.  The City employees do not even know what he does.

Fact:  The lack of the supervision of daily operations by that office has cost Urbana, 1.4 million dollars in the Landmark Hotel, doubled the roadway maintenance costs because those costs were not being reviewed with the implication of the bicycle path road changes. A bill changing the tax liability of Carle Hospital was passed because the usual monitoring of Legeslative bills by the AO office was non-existent.  The bill was passed without any representation at any meeting by the City of Urbana.  Now they want to blame Carle because Urbana did not attend the public committee meetings.  Incidentally, Naomi voted for that bill and now she wants to reverse her vote.  Good luck.

Fact: Millions of unauthorized public monies have been spent without the approval of the AO office.  The AO is define by Ordinance as the Chief Financial Officer and must approve such expenditures to the Council.

2.  5 years ago and 1 year ago, I said Urbana must address the maintenence of streets especially Windsor Rd. because road repair costs would escalate at an expedential rate and affect the access to Mejier, thereby affecting tax revenues.

Fact:  Laurel Prussing completely ingnored those needs and now Windsor Rd. is lost, Meijer tax revenues have not increased at the expected rate so Laurel Prussing has increase gas taxes, and property taxes.  Roads have fallen in disprepair throughout the city.

3.  5 years ago and 1 year ago, I said Urbana must put a satellite police station in the empty lot beside the Philo Rd. Fire station to protect SunnyCrest and Meijer and the neighborhood from an increasing crime problem.

Fact:  Laurel Prussing spent more on Roundabout studies than the cost of that necessary station and one only need to own a vehicle with tires to understand crime had increased.

4.  Laurel Prussing spent $8 million dollars of stimulius money on Windsor Road and 1/2 million dollars on the view obstructing plants on Philo Road.  5 years ago I said this money should be spent on Rte. 130 improvements to allow Menards to open and generate additional tax money.

Fact:  Both the Windsor Rd. and Rte. 130 road projects were "Shovel Ready" and could have been constructed with stimulus money.  Laurel Prussing spent over 1 million dollars MOVING POWER POLES on Windsor Rd, to place a bicycle path on the north side, while the south side remains without a sidewalk.

Fact:  Menards stated 6 years ago while Laurel Prussing was in office they would never open in Urbana, too risky.  Laurel Prussing untruthfully said she made the deal.  By not constructing Rte 130, with the stimulus money, Laurel Prussing caused you, Urbana Parent to miss out on 10's of millions of dollars of sales tax revenues from Menards

5.  5 years ago and 1 year ago, I stated that the planned sidewalk along Route 130 was a waste of money because that money could be better spent on maintenance of existing streets.

Fact:  Laurel Prussing spent 1.1 million dollars on this sidewalk and raised our gas taxes.  The business it served is now closed.

6.  In the News Gazette interview 5 years ago, I said Laurel Prussing was using threats of loss of employment against employees if they did not cower to her wishes.  

Fact: The News Gazette did slightly acknowledge that with their "Heavy hand" and "Her Way" endorsement of her, but ignored the effect on the quality of work.  The factual nature of my statement now comes to the forefront, to the tune of 1/2 million dollars.

I did not say those things because I like to hear myself speak, I said them and ran for Mayor because I was mad as Hell and wanted to do something about it.  Not only did I say them, but I was correct as proven by time and facts.

I am not controlled by any political party, nor should anyone be the instant they take the oath of office. I chose to use mostly my own money to present myself to the public.  I am controlled by the terms of my Engineer and Surveyor License and will always be so controlled.  It is a FACT that, If I lie or misrepresent, you could prove it and cause me to lose my licenses.  I told you about all of the above and more because I was dead serious about the above and more and about being Mayor and would have fixed them.  You chose not to listen or believe what I said not once, but twice.  When you pay gas tax and that fat tax bill in June and September, do you think I was joking?

The fact is you had a choice and that is exactly why I love this country.  You made your choice and you get to pay for your choice.

Urbana Parent wrote on May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am


I believe you've misread my comment. I never questioned your intentions or knowledge of Urbana's needs and issues. My statement was based on my personal experience with you at a "debate", I appreciate someone who put their own time and money to offer a choice for voters in any election. As the election pressed on, I found that my opinion of you was shared by more than a few...

"The Republicans weren't thrilled with Rex. He's a moderate. He's kooky. And a lot of people found his ad campaign lacking good taste"

Here's a couple of facts for you Rex,

Fact: Based on the voting population of Urbana, Prussing will remain in office until she decides not to run for relection

Fact: Based on historical voting patterns, anyone who wants to beat Prussing in an Mayoral election in Urbana, will need to win the Democratic nomination from her, Good luck with that.

Fact: I voted for Rex Bradfield,  Twice. So like you said, I made my choice...

Mr Dreamy wrote on May 23, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Don't hold back Rex, you're on a roll. Let the bitterness out. You'll feel much better when you let it go.

Citizen wrote on May 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

Face the facts...Urbana is a standing joke in how it is managed. While Champaign has flourished, and continues to do so, Urbana is stuck with leadership based on political ego with no concern for those who pay real estate taxes which pays the salary for this incompetent manager of Urbana.

A sidewalk along Rt 130???...which takes one to an abandoned business?

Menards...supposedly they requested Florida Ave to be extended to Rt 130 before building...instead Urbana has done a "wonderful" job of decreasing road space to allow more space for bicycles(who pay nothing for street repairs or striping)...and not to forget that Urbana has increased property taxes to do what? Support Prussing's need to hire St Louis lawyers legal fees?

Good luck to the City of Urbana...and if the desire to annex to Champaign comes up...I doubt Champaign would be stupid enough to add the liability of the current state of Urbana with its current management team in place.


Rex Bradfield wrote on May 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Menard's problem was Bruce Walden and Tod Sattherwait had agreed to some kind of City participitation with the IDOT requirements for Rte 130 lane changes because of increased traffic.  Menard had paid an engineer to completely design these changes and the Public/Works Engineering Department in Urbana had approved them. They met the "shovel Ready criteria even more than Windsor Rd. The approximate cost of those improvements was similar to Windsor Rd.  The problem was construction would require Menards to post a bond, probably 150% of the approved cost estimate and they did not want to tie up that money.  Prussing was elected and kaboshed the agreement. Around that same time, she fired Bruce and all the local developers told her at a meeting they would not devote large sums of development money to Urbana, and they have not.  Menard's viewed this statement and the "Personal reason" firing of Bruce as a very poor leadership and bailed out for years.

Florida Ave would have to be developed by Menards because of 1/2 road subdivision ordinances, but that never was the issue.  I said in my campaign, that Florida Ave. should be extended regardless of Menards. and it would help encourage other development along Rte 130.   But again, I lost.  Laurel built the bicycle path.