Two dozen Hope Creek employees told to take early retirement or lose jobs


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Originally Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014, 5:33 pm
Last Updated: Aug. 14, 2014, 9:18 am
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

ROCK ISLAND -- More than two dozen senior Hope Creek Care Center employees have received letters warning them that unless they take early retirement they'll lose their jobs.

The list of 28 workers at the county-owned nursing home who got the letter includes Hope Creek Administrator Trudy Whittington.

Three other county employees, including a sheriff's captain and the human resources director at the county health department, also received the letter.

A number of employees who got the letter are unhappy that their jobs are being targeted and are considering ways to protest, according to county board members who spoke with the workers.

Putting the Hope Creek administrator's job on the cutting board also signals that some county leaders are looking to privatize management at the nursing home.

County board chairman Phil Banaszek said he envisioned the county hiring a private company to run Hope Creek and that the company would bring in its own manager who would not be on the county payroll.

Mr. Banaszek said the company that used to manage Hope Creek - Management Performance Associates of St. Louis - will give a presentation to the county next month on how they would run the nursing home.

The county severed its $230,000 a year contract with MPA in 2011 with former county board chairman Jim Bohnsack saying at the time that the firm had failed to deliver on promised financial improvements.

But Mr. Banaszek said he thought MPA had not been allowed to fully implement their ideas and that he had been impressed by the company's performance at other nursing homes.

The county board has not approved bringing in a private firm to run Hope Creek, meaning Mr. Banaszek's decision to take steps in that direction is likely to provoke criticism.

Meanwhile, the decision to tell 28 senior employees at Hope Creek that they should take early retirement because their positions will be eliminated has been criticized by a union official.

Mr. Banaszek said the county consulted with its labor attorney before sending out the letters.

But Dino Leone, the president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, said the county could not target certain positions without first negotiating with the union that represent Hope Creek's workers.

He said those who received the letter should not feel like they have to take early retirement and that workers on the list would be protected by seniority rules in their union contract.

"If people want to take early retirement, God bless them, but I don't want them to be scared into it," Mr. Leone said.

Mr. Banaszek also said that Hope Creek was overstaffed, based on information he had gotten from a consultant, and that was one reason behind the attempt to cut back at the nursing home.

The letter to the workers states that no money will be put in the budget for their positions from Dec. 1 but Mr. Banaszek said the county could still fill some of the positions at a later date.

Mr. Leone disagreed with the notion that Hope Creek, which employs around 300 workers, was overstaffed and said cutting numbers could impact the quality of care at the nursing home.

Hope Creek has been in trouble financially and voters will be asked in a November referendum to support paying higher property taxes for the nursing home.

Several county board members on Wednesday also expressed concern about the letter to county employees warning them about the future of their jobs.

Ginny Shelton, D-Moline, was among board members who said she had not been aware of the letter until she was informed about it by one of the employees who received one.

The county is implementing an early retirement program across all county departments to save money and 103 employees are eligible to take up the option. Most of those who will leave will be replaced, according to county officials.





















 



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