Email spat underscores budget fight

Nasty exchange between mayor and city council president over whether the city should consider outsourcing city services and cut the city workforce
Posted on May 17, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

Scroll down to Moore's email and Henke's response.

ELKHART — A testy email spat erupted Thursday between Mayor Dick Moore and councilman David Henke who suggested city officials consider outsourcing some city services.

The exchange culminated Thursday when Moore, a Democrat, sent an email to city workers warning that the Republican city councilman favored cutting the city workforce.

Henke responded by saying such a suggestion was a lie.

Word of the exchange spread quickly among city workers. Henke said he received numerous calls and emails Thursday from city workers, and that some of the comments had a threatening tone.

The exchange began after Moore issued a statement May 9 concerning the city’s budget crisis from an unanticipated shortfall in tax revenues for 2012 and 2013. In his statement, Moore pledged to look at numerous ways to cut costs, but expressed opposition to reducing staff.

Henke responded with an email to Moore urging him to look at all possibilities to reduce costs, including the outsourcing some city services.

Henke outlined several ideas to cut costs, including outsourcing, and ended his email by suggesting Moore’s support for city employees represented a “sacred cow.”

“There is much we can do but if each of us has a sacred cow many people will starve while the cows continue to eat our grass,” Henke wrote.

Moore responded on Thursday in an email to city council members and city workers explaining that an unnamed city councilman supported the notion of reducing the city workforce.

Henke has been an outspoken opponent of the mayor and the two have a history of sparring.

Putting more people in the unemployment line, Moore said told workers “seems to be somewhat counterproductive to me.”

Moore also implored city workers to “help” and be mindful “that there are those that desire to have your job.”

Moore continued:

“While this may appear to be my battle, that too is not reality,” Moore said. “I will do everything I can to keep you employed. But you must help.”

They can do that, Moore said, by continuing to work hard and being as efficient as possible.

Moore said Henke’s comments “indicate that it does not and will not bother him to see you lose your job.”

Henke fired back at Moore less than an hour later Thursday morning, arguing that the mayor’s insinuation that Henke believed trimming staff is “the only potential solution is frankly a lie,” and said he was saddened that Moore “would stoop to this low.”

Henke criticized Moore for politicizing the conversation and pitting himself against city employees.

“Applying faces and names to these decisions will not lead us to the correct answer,” Henke wrote. “As mayor, you should focus on the financial issues at hand and seek assistance moving forward. It is beneath your position to find arguments with your favorite councilman to deflect attention to real issues.”

The blow up underscores the philosophical differences some city leaders will face later this year when council has to begin preparing a budget for 2013.

The city recently learned that the amount of reductions in tax revenues as a result of state mandated tax caps would be roughly $2.1 million more than expected for 2013.

The city recently made numerous moves to shore up a similar shortfall in the existing budget. Some of those moves involved a shifting of funds from one budget to another. The city is also establishing a handful of new fees and hiking other existing fees.

Henke said the city could save additional money through outsourcing for billing and collections. And he said in a telephone interview Thursday that some other duties could be done by the private sector.

By outsourcing some jobs, the city could save in the employee benefits such as insurance, Henke said.

He also questioned why the city has been slow in attempts to collect late bills in the utility department and fees and fines from court actions.

Moore was unavailable for comment, but his executive assistant, Arvis Dawson, downplayed the exchange.

“The mayor has his opinion and he has his,” Dawson said.

Moore will host a press conference at 10 a.m. today. Dawson said the press conference will focus on developments involving the downtown and has nothing to do with Moore and Henke or budget issues.

Mayor Moore's email:

Moore Email

David Henke's response:

Henke Email

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