Joliet city manager tries again for PR person

City Council resisting contract with communications firm at $12,000 a month

City Manager Jim Capparelli listens to council discussion on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill. The Joliet City Council discussed an amendment to allow for liquor consumption and video gambling at gas stations.

The Joliet City Council is balking at City Manager James Capparelli’s latest attempt to hire someone to handle communications for city hall.

The council votes Tuesday on a proposed contract to employ Mac Strategies Group out of Chicago for public affairs and media services at a rate of $12,000 a month.

At a Monday workshop meeting, council members questioned the rate of pay and what the city would get for its money.

Councilwoman Sherri Reardon also questioned why the city already was paying Mac Strategies Group for its services.

“We’ve already issued a check, and now we’re approving a contract,” Reardon said to Capparelli.

Capparelli said he brought the contract on the agenda because payments to Mac Strategies Group are nearing the “threshold,” which he later said is $25,000, when he needs council approval for further payments.

Capparelli has been trying to hire a communications person since March 2021 when he started advertising for a public relations manager before getting council approval to create the position.

The council voted against the job then and again in June when Capparelli sought approval after the April election. He then tried to put the position in the 2022 budget but was turned down.

After the council voiced objections to including the job in the 2022 budget, Capparelli said he would hire an outside firm for public information services to demonstrate the value of the work.

“There’s absolutely a need and a value to having a public information officer,” he told the council Monday. “I don’t know if this is the right way to go. But you wouldn’t give it to me in the budget. You told me to go this route.”

Councilman Larry Hug previously suggested using an outside firm rather than creating a new position, but also said Monday, “I was against the whole concept.”

Councilman Larry Hug voices his frustration at tabling a vote on liquor licenses on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet, Ill. The Joliet City Council discussed an amendment to allow for liquor consumption and video gambling at gas stations.

Mac Strategies has been doing work for the city since at least March 1.

Council members said much of what the firm has produced already has appeared in local news outlets.

“Why do we need someone to do that when we can pick up the paper and look at the news and see the same thing?” Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said.

Hug and Councilwoman Jan Quillman also questioned a contract based on a monthly rate rather than on work produced.

“I think if anything this beta test of the last month has shown there’s not a work load for a full-timer,” Hug said.