Credit card expenses and government salaries in south suburban Country Club Hills seem to be—and we’re putting it mildly—out of control.
This isn’t some oil-rich Middle East monarchy we’re talking about. Country Club Hills is a nice middle-class town where municipal debt is around $50 million and family income is typically below $60,000 a year.
It’s not the kind of place where the mayor and city manager—in addition to receiving six-figure salaries, and other perks—should be dropping $80,000 on food and drinks in a single year, using taxpayer-funded credit cards.
So aside from griping, what should we do about it?
For starters, in the opinion of the Better Government Association, city officials need to talk this out more—in a public, open meeting.
In so doing, the Country Club Hills mayor and aldermen (who recently forced more than a dozen job cuts, against the mayor’s wishes) should consider:
- Eliminating all municipal credit cards and changing to a reimbursement system. In other words, you want to buy something? You pay for it, then get it reimbursed if it’s a legitimate expense. That’s how much of the business community operates. (The City Council recently voted to yank away some credit cards, but left the mayor with his.)
- Stripping away all expense accounts for city officials. From what we can tell, the accounts that exist now are loosely monitored, and some expenditures don’t seem to have much if any value to the community. A clothing allowance? Please.
- Instituting some controls on spending. Should taxpayers really be paying for booze on lake cruises, and chicken at Hooters?
- Revisiting mayoral and aldermanic salaries and perks, which, by almost anyone’s standards, are overly generous.
Country Club Hills just went through a tough election in April, when the balance of power started shifting away from the mayor to the City Council, so we recognize that our proposed reforms could be politicized. But as a non-partisan civic group, that’s not our intent.
Even so, we’re hearing about other potential problems in this city of about 16,000, so we plan to keep our eyes on the community, and offer other suggestions as needed.
The bottom-line is this: residents, not politicians, should come first.