Bloomington city council postpones vote on giving staff job to current deputy

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In this Square Beacon file photo, Stephen Lucas (right) confers with city attorney Mike Rouker during a Bloomington city council meeting.

An anticipated vote to name Stephen Lucas as Bloomington’s city council attorney/administrator starting on Aug. 1 was postponed by the council at Wednesday’s meeting.

The council will take up the question again at a special session now scheduled for June 10.

Lucas has served as Bloomington city council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman’s deputy for about nine months. Sherman is retiring after around 30 years on the job.

The nine-member council voted 9–0 last week to make Lucas an offer, without posting the position or conducting a search. The full council’s action last week followed a recommendation from the council’s administration committee made the Friday before.

Last Wednesday’s vote meant the council president and vice president, Steve Volan and Jim Sims, were tasked with offering the job to Lucas and working out the details of employment. Among the details was the compensation Lucas would receive.

The unanimous decision to postpone the vote came after a question from councilmember Matt Flaherty established that before Wednesday’s meeting, councilmembers had not been given a written description of the outcome of the negotiations between Volan, Sims and Lucas. Specifically, they had not been apprised of the proposed compensation for Lucas.

That eventually led councilmember Dave Rollo to move to postpone the question to June 10, for which the council had to establish a special session. Volan said he was reluctant to postpone the question, but would not oppose postponement.

Councilmembers Sue Sgambelluri and Susan Sandberg both said they felt comfortable voting on the question that night.

In her remarks, Sgambelluri expressed some concern about delaying too long. She wanted the search for Lucas’s replacement as deputy, which is supposed to include a wide search for a diverse pool of candidates, to take place in a timely way.

Flaherty said he wanted the additional detail, as a matter of due diligence, about how the salary number was determined. Flaherty said he was “99 percent sure” that he’d be happy with what he learned, but still wanted to take the additional time.

The salary figure that Volan and Sims had in mind wasn’t spoken aloud at Wednesday’s meeting. The fact that a specific number had been settled on emerged when Flaherty asked if Volan and Sims could speak in “a bit more detail about your deliberations and what is expected in terms of how… the council would go about exploring appropriate salary and other things like that.”

Volan responded to Flaherty by saying that a salary range had been discussed. Volan reported that they felt they’d found “a number that was appropriate.” They’d also talked about other aspects of the job, like vacation time and how the reporting would work. It was a “genial conversation” with no disputes, Volan said.

Flaherty asked: “Are those details already available that I somehow missed?” Volan then said that he had neglected to send an email with that information saying, “That’s my bad.”

Lucas was paid $47,262 as deputy last year, according to the state’s salary database.

Whatever the eventual salary figure is for Lucas as the administrator/attorney, the higher position with its salary grade 12, will give him at least a 50-percent pay boost—to $72,565, which is the bottom end of the range. Grade 12 ranges from $72,565 to $130,619. In 2019, the current administrator/attorney Dan Sherman was paid $92,730.

In his remarks, Sims said he thinks Lucas is “eminently qualified” to replace Dan Sherman.

Sims also foreshadowed some possible changes to the balance of responsibilities between the council’s administrator/attorney and the clerk’s office. Sims said it’s very important how the administrator/attorney works with the city clerk and her office. More than just two or three people would need to be a part of deciding any changes that would be involved, Sims said.

The city clerk is an elected position with some duties described in local code. The first item on the list of clerk’s duties is:

(1) Serve as secretary of the council and keep an accurate record of all proceedings;”

Further down on the list is:

(5) Maintain complete and orderly files containing all papers and documents pertaining to the business of the council and make them available to the council and the public;

If the files described in (5) are analyzed as including the information packets for city council meetings, then the information packets would be in the bailiwick of the clerk’s office. They’re currently handled by the administrator/attorney.

Sims said that Lucas’s experience working as Nicole Bolden’s deputy clerk would be helpful for the working relationship between the two offices.

According to Lucas’s Linkedin resume, he’s been on the job as attorney/administrator for about nine months. Before that he was city clerk Nicole Bolden’s chief deputy for about three years.

Lucas’s other work as an attorney, after graduating from Indiana University School of Law in 2014, was for a couple of years as an associate attorney at Pittman, Emery & Nikirk, a Bedford firm.

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