TU: Appointees cut by Jacksonville City Hall cashing in unused leave

I am not sure I agree with people being able to do this. Wonder how this might be handled so it doesn't happen again. Obviously there was some sort of agreement?
More than $400,000 in unused leave time is still on the books.
By Steve Patterson
When Mayor Alvin Brown removed many of Jacksonville's top administrators last month, he set the table for changes billed as making City Hall run leaner.

But before Brown moves forward on that, the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars settling up with former employees who accrued leave time they didn't use - and are entitled to sell it back.

During the changeover from former Mayor John Peyton to Brown's administration, the city has faced more than $433,000 in bills to buy unused leave time from departing mayoral appointees, city records show.

The total cost will be higher, because a few people that Brown dismissed Sept. 28 have been waiting for final checks that will include their leave sales.

Final payout records for 31 appointees, obtained by the Times-Union through public records requests, showed their leave payments averaged $13,976.

But the largest topped $50,000.

And that raises flags to people who want lower government costs.

"I don't see how they deserve any of it, personally," said Tony Bates, a longtime leader in Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, who noted many businesses just don't pay workers for unused leave.

Bates said people hired by a mayor should be ready to move on when administrations change, and can use their time off before then or lose it.

"They know the circumstance and they've known for years," Bates said. "... They've had years to really prepare for their future."

The recession makes this a bad season to argue with critics, said Kerri Stewart, who received $51,495 after serving as chief administrative officer under Peyton and Brown.

"I don't know there's anything I could say that would make anyone think it's fair, given the current economic situation," she said. But Stewart said she had no reason to feel bad about taking the money.

"I know I didn't take advantage of anybody or any leave plan. I am a taxpayer, too," she said.

Stewart said her job required long hours most of the time, and doing the $166,000-a-year job left her with piles of unused leave, compensatory time and time owed from emergency situations like tropical storms. City rules capped how much of that leave she could sell back, she said, and the rest went to waste.

Starting city employees can earn 20 days of leave yearly - for vacations, sick time or any purpose. City rules for most workers, other than police and firefighters, cap the amount of leave they can hold at somewhere between seven and 12 weeks, depending on their years with the city.

Bates said he doesn't fault appointees for selling back their time but thinks the City Council should be pushing to control the benefits in top jobs.

Don't bet on that happening, said Councilman Richard Clark, who chairs the Finance Committee and demanded cuts in agency spending during budget hearings this year.

"I'm comfortable with it and I don't foresee us changing it," Cark said of the leave sales policy. "... Not only is it reasonable, but it's done in far more, many more, places than the city of Jacksonville."

Clark said the amounts the city paid to the appointees leaving sounded "about right," and that the city needs to offer reasonable benefits when it's hiring qualified administrators. He pointed out appointees aren't receiving severance pay and said he would feel differently about that.

Brown said last week he isn't particularly focused on details of employee benefits if the final deal makes sense for taxpayers.

"You've got to get what's best for the public," he said. "There are so many different compensation and benefits packages."

Peyton curbed leave sales near the end of his term by telling appointees he wouldn't sign waivers that would let them nominally stay on the city's books and run out their leave. A few longtime employees are still enrolled in an earlier leave package that allowed it.

Stewart said she doesn't think top appointees cared that much what the leave rules and other benefits with their jobs were.

She said most were focused more on the appeal of having jobs that made an impact on the city - and that held true when Brown hired his own people to fill some top spots.

"They negotiated their salary after they accepted the job," she said.

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2011-10-27/story/appointees-cut-...

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Comment by Patricia M. McBride on October 29, 2011 at 3:20pm
I think they are bored and feel the need to always be legislating?   The very people who used to have a part time job have now legislated themselves into a regulation nightmare when leaving things alone sometimes is a better option.  The question of the day to ask your city councilman is "what exactly can I do on or to my own property that I don't need a permit or some sort of city permission to do???  Name one thing?
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on October 29, 2011 at 3:17pm
Certainly Amanda they are laying claim to more and more and regulating pretty much everything.  Thinks like buying a permit for a yard sale seem just a little over the top to me considering I can't think of another place ever where we have lived that you couldn't have a yard sale and signs without obtaining a permit.  And yes, they do come around and slow down and check you out.  The stupid thing is we are paying people to do this and making the taxpayer pay for it!  Ranks right up there with getting a permit so your child can put a lemonaid stand in your front yard!
Comment by amanda choate on October 29, 2011 at 1:34pm

I see major problems with a centralized government happening in our city, as it is being done on the Federal level in DC. Just my thoughts...

JL, what do you mean by this. How does city government de-centralize?

Comment by Patricia M. McBride on October 29, 2011 at 7:14am
I think this was a accumulation of sick and personal days.  The company my husband worked for only allowed you to keep so many days on the books.  Once you had exceeded the number, you either had to take the days off or lose the days period.  No one should have been allowed to back up a good part of  a years worth of work days or something rivaling that as one person claimed $50,000.   Even vacation time should be limited to maybe 2 years worth?  Private companies don't allow situations like this at all. 
Comment by JL Gawlik on October 28, 2011 at 11:20pm

Patricia, i can see unused vacations, but unused time? Is that sick days or what? That is how the unions have completely pervert jobs, they deem that everyone deserves pay for time not at work if a situation or illness happens but if the person is let go then they deserved pay for the unused time. I have spoken to people with those privileges and they save them up and take them at one time. In my day when i was employed i asked for time off and told the reason, the employer would grant me the time off and pay me, for my time off, i was always surprised and thankful. Personally i do not get the you owe me attitude, or the my life must have a guarantee attitude. 

From what i see coming out of Brown being Mayor, i am not impressed and i am very disappointed in the council members that granted him that larger travel expense, isn't being Mayor managing the city so people want to move their businesses here? Not traveling all over the world ... what ever happened to extending invitations to visit our city? Live conferencing over the internet? I see major problems with a centralized government happening in our city, as it is being done on the Federal level in DC. Just my thoughts...

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