Serwatka Criticizes Lakewood Administrator’s Bonus, Attacks Prevailing Wage

Here’s an email I got from Lakewood Village Trustee Paul Serwatka while we were on vacation:

June Lakewood Village Board Meeting

Reporting on our June, 2016 Village Board Meeting (We are only meeting once per month in June, July and August) there are two issues that I want to call your attention to – the second of which, I feel is of particular importance.

1.)    Adoption of Prevailing Wage Ordinance

2.)    Closed Meeting called to privately discuss the performance and pay increase of Village Manager, Catherine Peterson.

I realize this email is a bit lengthy. I have made every effort to keep it as short as possible. I urge you to read it in its entirety.

ISSUE 1: Adoption of Prevailing Wage Ordinance

Paul Serwatka

While I could write at length on this issue, I will be as brief as possible as I do not want to take your attention away from the second issue, which I feel MUST be addressed.

Essentially, the Prevailing Wage Law requires all contractors and subcontractors for projects built by any public body – and paid with public funds – to be paid the hourly rate set by the Illinois Department of Labor for that county (regardless of what the normal pay rate would otherwise be for non-public projects). Imposing these inflated wages greatly inhibits competitive bidding and typically drives village project costs up exorbitantly, taking substantial money right out of the pockets of taxpayers.

For example, this law requires that any carpenters who may be employed to build a new village hall must be paid a minimum of $76 per hour (including benefits) regardless of the fact that their normal hourly rate may be closer to $40 per hour when working on a job not paid for with public funds. It is quite common that costs for such projects are as much as 30%-40% higher because of Prevailing Wage laws.

*Worth noting, The McHenry County Board and the city of Woodstock both voted AGAINST adopting the Prevailing Wage Ordinance last year.

Village President Smith acknowledged the fact that the Prevailing Wage Laws greatly increased the cost of public projects, as did Village Manager, Catherine Peterson and every trustee on the board.  Nevertheless, the vote was then taken and the Prevailing Wage Ordinance was, once again, adopted this year.

Voting in favor of adopting the Prevailing Wage Ordinance were trustees Santowski, Iden, Thomas, Furey and Davis.

I was the sole vote opposing this ordinance.

ISSUE 2: Performance Review/Pay Raise of Village Manager, Catherine Peterson

During our Village Board meeting, Village President, Erin Smith, called for an Executive Session/Closed Meeting to discuss the performance review and pay raise of Village Manager, Catherine Peterson.

The obvious purpose of a closed meeting is to keep the information discussed out of the public eye – and while it may, at times, be prudent to do so (e.g. during contract negotiations or while litigation is pending) I do not believe it to be prudent, whatsoever, in this situation.

In fact, I believe it to be quite the opposite.

I voiced my concerns while casting the only vote in favor of keeping the meeting open to the public. Trustees, Santowski, Iden, Thomas, Furey and Davis all voted in favor of closing the meeting to the public. The public was then asked to leave the room.

While it is quite common to close a meeting to discuss performance reviews/pay raises of employees, it certainly is not required – and in the case of our Village Manager, I believe it is wrong.

Allow me to explain why.

Village Manager, Catherine Peterson, has, arguably, more control and influence over our village than any other village employee or elected official.

Furthermore, most residents are not aware that our Village Manager’s annual salary and benefits package equals more than 5% of the Village’s entire annual budget – and this, for 9 ½ months work. (See table below)

To add to this, figuring in the salary and benefits of the Deputy Village Manager, Shannon Andrews, (who works 10-months per year) we arrive at more than 10% of our village’s entire annual budget. (These figures are only for these two Manager positions, specifically, and do not include compensation amounts for the Village Clerk and other Administrative Assistants/support staff of management.)

This in mind, I feel strongly that any individual having this level of control & influence, as well as receiving a compensation package that equates to such a substantial portion of taxpayer dollars, should absolutely have their performance subject to public scrutiny and their compensation amount known to the taxpayers who pay it.


As discussion on this matter ensued, the general consensus among the other trustees was that the Village Manager was deserving of a raise and that they preferred it to be in the form of a bonus, rather than a salary increase. I questioned the actual amount of compensation already being given as well as the need to get more information before arbitrarily awarding a bonus/raise amount. I say “arbitrarily” for two reasons:

  • No other board member even knew the actual dollar amount of compensation the Village Manager was currently being paid.
  • No other board member had any comparable information as to what other Municipal Managers were being compensated.

I then shared with them a bit of the homework I had done.

The following table demonstrates the 2015/2016 salary and compensation packages for Lakewood’s Village Manager and Deputy Manager.

Title Base Salary Vehicle Allowance Bonus IMRF




Life Ins.



Paid Days Off Per Year
Village Manager, Peterson $133,500 $3000 $4000 $15,207 $14,270 $169,977 41
Deputy Vlg. Manager, Andrews $106,635     ***   *** $11,794 $14,270  $132,699 36

A quick search online for Municipal Manager Salary yielded the following information from

City Manager Salary  (United States)

“With over one-half of City Managers in the United States reporting more than 10 years of experience, the field is heavily weighted toward experienced professionals. Average pay for City Managers is $84K per year and can range from $49K on the lower end to $151K per year near the higher end. Most City Managers like their work and job satisfaction is high. Almost all enjoy medical while a fair number get dental coverage. Vision coverage is also available to the larger part. Male City Managers are far more common among survey respondents than their female counterparts, who typically comprise less than one-third of the field.” 

I expressed my opinion that in light of this information – and considering the size and scope of our little village (consisting of some 1550 households), relative to “the average”, I am not convinced that we are not currently over-compensating our village management staff.

Wrapping up this discussion, the general consensus among President Smith and all trustees, myself excepted, was to award Ms. Peterson a $5000 bonus.

But, here is the part that I find particularly bothersome.

It was then calculated, that this bonus would constitute 4.2% of base salary.

All trustees were fine with this.

They were then reminded that any raise/bonus in excess of 3% of base salary would require formally notifying the public of the intended bonus/raise BEFORE awarding the bonus/raise.

The question was then asked:

“What is the maximum bonus amount that could be given without having to first give formal public notice?”

I believe that line of questioning, alone, is cause for concern.

The answer to this question was then calculated to be $4000. It was then agreed by all trustees, myself excepted, to grant Ms. Peterson a $4000 bonus and forgo formal public notification.

In my opinion, there is nothing in this entire line of thinking that could possibly be construed as being “in the spirit of good government.”

This bonus will be “officially” voted on at our next Village Board Meeting scheduled for July 12, 2016.

I welcome you to share this with neighbors who may not be on my email distribution list. And, please encourage them to join my list, as well.

As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcomed and valued.

= = = = =
Of at least as much interest to me as the contents of what happened in Executive Session is that Trustee Serwatka revealed the details.

Most elected officials are of the false impression that nothing discussed behind closed doors cannot be revealed to anyone.

There is nothing but social press from fellow board members to enforce that.

The Crystal Lake Park Board sued formed and now deceased watchdog member Leona Nelson alleging she had revealed what happened in secret session.

That legal accusation went away during the court proceedings when the Park Board attorney couldn’t produce anything to justify the “charge.”

So, school, county, township, library, fire protection district, park, etc., board members, if you want to share what happens which other board members want to keep secret, go for it.


Serwatka Criticizes Lakewood Administrator’s Bonus, Attacks Prevailing Wage — 16 Comments

  1. thanks again to paul for keeping everyone informed!!

    a large showing of residents at that next meeting will hopefully end any bonus!!

    she needs to do more with less like the rest of us WORKING people have had to do!!

  2. Wow, Lakewood and example of what not to do yet again.

    I do question voting against prevailing wage being anything but symbolic.

    It’s the law of the land here in IL, it’s equal to union scale and certainly you can find a lot of non union carpenters, painters etc., but I don’t know of any non union road builders here so those costs will not change at least in the short term

  3. Another year of inflated salary and bonus for an individual who has not performed at the level of compensation.

    Bottom line, what has Ms. Peterson done for the Village of Lakewood in her 20 year tenure?

    Sales tax revenue?


    Lou Malanti’s was 10 years ago and the other businesses along Ackman basically bring in little to no sales tax revenue;

    Sports Complex? Yes.

    A pipe dream that cost Village residents a ton of money;

    Crystal Lake litigation re: Fire Department, Yes.

    Again at the expense of Village residents;

    Turnberry Lakes algae problems, Yes, trying to mitigate for the benefit of only a few homeowners and the expense of the residents;

    and on and on.

    A history of failed ideas at residents expense with no noticeable return on our “investment”.

    And the Village Administrator continues to rake in a salary and bonus that is not only over inflated it is criminal.

    When will folks wake up and stop the madness??

  4. This board continues to make frightening and downright harmful decisions again and again and again!

    Often right in the face of direct evidence and strong reasoning to do otherwise.

    As a resident of Lakewood I attend meetings when I am able to and what I find to be equally troubling is watching the actions and interactions between board members during meetings.

    Smith and Peterson give their “sales pitch du jour” after which one or two trustees will ask a completely rudimentary question, I suppose to appear attentive.

    Then Mr. Serwatka begins to speak and immediately Smith and Peterson glance at each other and roll their eyes as if annoyed, while a glaze seems to overcome the other trustees.

    Once Serwatka finishes shooting their pitch full of holes and asking questions that seemingly weren’t supposed to be asked publicly, an almost Pavlovian response overcomes the other trustees as they await Smith’s command to vote “yes”.

    I swear at times I believe I see their tales wagging in their chair and it seems all they can do to keep from spinning in circles awaiting their chance to earn a treat.

    I have half a mind to check Erin’s pocket to see what treats she offers them to keep them so eagerly obedient.

    Thank you, Paul, for all of your wonderful efforts.

    You have the patience of Job.

    May the day soon come that your efforts will no longer be futile and others with intestinal fortitude will join you in righting the capsizing ship of Lakewood.

  5. Would these events have been made public if Paul D. Serwatka was not on the Village of Lakewood Board?

    No – of course not.

    While Paul makes a lot of people uneasy – he makes a hell of a lot more residents aware of the political insider BS that goes on…

    …and for that Sir we thank you.

  6. Why would Queen Erin and her minions sell out the residents who elected her and them by agreeing to a “prevailing wage” payment ordinance?

    This posture is reprehensible.

  7. Because they are fluoride-Kool Aid-guzzling-drunk with their power; believing the peons are too stupid to figure out the game plan.


    She not only should have known better but also should have done her job and presented the Trustees with the very comparables for Municipal Manager Salaries as you did here, Paul Serwatka.

    Serwatka doing his homework and the homework of the Vlg. President!!!

  9. Inexcusable!

    If this is her so called ‘expertise’ in that area, then we can only conclude that Smith gave her Assistant/Friend/Secret Keeper a big honking raise, simply because she could, regardless of merit and without letting the village weigh in.


    Hell it’s not her money, it’s the Village’s money so spend away!

    In my opinion, that’s stealing!

  10. To say that Smith is a “EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION CONSULTANT” is just another way to say she is an unemployed HR clerk who hangs out a shingle when her jobs at Motorola and Bally went away.

    To give her credit as an “executive” is a stretch especially when she has not exhibited any executive tendencies in her time as queen of Lakewood.

    Let’s not feed the ego and imply there is anything of value to contribute.

  11. Agreed “shs”… good job Paul

    to bad we don’t have more of your kind in all our local gov. seats… as we all know this happens everywhere and its sickening and most all just turn a blinds eye while they get pickpocketed…

    Kudos to you!

  12. The people do the electing last time I checked…but good people don’t have the time or energy to run and don’t need the power.

    Too many elected officials in Illinois, where we have more units of government than any other State.

    Look where it gets us.

  13. Jim B?

    The people are stupid and vote for their friends or a name they recognize.

    Nobody has time to hunt down all the facts on government and the doofusses in charge count on that.

    Decades of not paying attention and trusting others to be persons of integrity has landed us here.

  14. You’re right, Cindy.

    I did some campaigning many years ago & it was very apparent that the few who bothered to vote only did so for names they recognized.

    They would have no clue about anything else.

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