April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Former county auditor cashes in on $18K in unused sick time

ELYRIA — Former Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart made a brief return to county government in April, long enough to qualify him to cash out 1,000 hours of unused sick time left over from his days as a county employee before he became an elected official in 1995.

The move cost taxpayers $18,080.

County Auditor Craig Snod- grass acknowledged Friday that Stewart, who retired at the end of 2012, worked four hours for him on a Saturday in early April at a rate of $18.08 an hour. His gross pay for his actual time on the clock was $72.32.

Stewart, who is among those pushing to change the form of county government, defended his payout as legal and said he felt he was entitled to payment for his unused sick hours because he earned the benefit while he was a county employee.

Changes in the law, Stewart said, have allowed other county officials, such as Snodgrass and county Recorder Judy Nedwick to cash out their unused sick time when they made the transition. Nedwick worked in the auditor’s transfer office for more than 20 years before being appointed recorder and later elected in her own right.

Those who have been in office longer, including county Treasurer Dan Talarek, will run into the same problem as he did, Stewart said.

“It’s just unfair that others who came after me and so on were able to receive their payout and I was not,” he said.

Snodgrass, who was Stewart’s chief deputy auditor before his boss retired and recommended him as a replacement, said when he became auditor he cashed out both his unused sick and vacation time.

Those holding countywide elective office don’t have set vacation and sick days under Ohio law.

Stewart said he believed he would be able to cash out his unused sick hours when he retired, but then learned he would have to return as a county employee in order to get the money.

Snodgrass said he brought back Stewart to review paperwork filed with the county Board of Revision by property owners challenging the county-set value of their property that determines their property tax bills. His office was short-staffed and Snodgrass said Stewart had the necessary experience to do the work.

Stewart, who is the chairman of the Elyria Democratic Party, worked on April 6. On April 8, Snodgrass said he found a handwritten letter of resignation on his desk.

“After performing reviews of the designated Board of Revision cases, my thoughts are that this work is not what I anticipated and am resigning this opportunity to serve the office,” Stewart wrote. “Thanx (sic) for the opportunity.”

Snodgrass said he had wanted Stewart to do far more work than he did and hadn’t expected such a quick departure from his predecessor.

“I wasn’t happy about it, but if a person doesn’t want to work, I can’t make someone come to work,” he said.

Stewart said he thought four hours of work was fair.

“Probably an hour is too short and eight it too long,” he said.

Snodgrass initially denied that Stewart had worked for him when asked by The Chronicle-Telegram in August. He said Friday that he thought he had said that Stewart had done work at the Board of Revision, but later began to question whether he had been clear enough.

“I thought I was clear,” he said. “I apologize if I wasn’t.”

Stewart, who started as an employee of the county auditor’s office in the 1970s, had built up 1,208.24 hours of unused sick time when he ceased being an employee and became an elected official in 1995, Snodgrass said. Under the laws in place 18 years ago, Stewart was allowed to cash out 151 hours of unused vacation time, which he did, but couldn’t get paid for his unused sick time.

“The sick time kind of stayed on the books as a liability,” Snodgrass said.

For a period of 10 years after he left elective office Stewart was eligible to cash out or use of his unused sick time if he took another government job, Snodgrass said.

By becoming a county employee again, Stewart was able to cash out 1,000 hours worth of the unused sick time and still has 208.24 unused sick hourson the books that he can use if he ever finds himself working in government again.

Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes, who was unaware of Stewart’s brief return stint in county government, said the process was entirely legal. There is no min- imum amount of time a returning employee must work before being allowed to cash out unused sick time, he said.

“Just like anyone else who comes back he’s allowed to go back and recoup what he has in the bank,” Innes said.

Stewart’s brief time in Snodgrass’ office isn’t the only work he’s done that’s earned him a check from a county office this year. He’s also been paid $653 for appraisals he’s done for sheriff ’s sales as an independent contractor for county Sheriff Phil Stammitti’s office.

In that role Stewart isn’t considered a county employee, Stammitti said. He is paid out of the court costs for cases that end with property being sold at sheriff ’s sale and the checks are issued by county Clerk of Courts Ron Nabakowski’s office.

Stammitti said he didn’t know that Stewart had worked for Snodgrass for four hours in April or about the sick leave payout. He said his staff maintains a list of appraisers and Stewart asked him if he could get on that list and Stammitti told him to submit a resume to his staff.

“I asked their opinion and they said they think he’s more than qualified and I do too,” the sheriff said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • levtrotsky

    The Stewart/Keyes family has lived off the county taxpayers and will in the future based on the families ties to preferential hiring. Have the reporter give us a ‘ family tree ‘ of related family members on the taxpayers dime!

    • Mark B

      They wont do that because they are in the Democratic party’s pocket

  • Beentheredonethat

    Once again county officals stick it to the tax payers!

  • Kevin Sears

    so you quit a job, then come back years later, and still keep all the benefits from when you left? Only in government. if that’s nor something that needs changed, but you know they never will.

  • Don Grantzki

    Just keep on returning these jokers into office and let them appoint their relatives to cushy positions in spite of their 29 IQ’s, cause we all enjoy reading about how they managed to take advantage of the perks. I know of people who have worked in private enterprises that never missed one day in the last fifteen years of service and when they retired, there wasn’t any mention of it other than a few snide remarks by fellow employees who made it a point to NEVER let a year go by without missing at least six weeks of work due to “illness”. The fact that this weasel missed out on the latest Demmunist gimme to the “anointed” is no reason for other weasels to find a way for him to get in on the “hog’s trough” now.

  • Mark B

    Just so everyone knows , every single person on the city of Elyria’s payroll is also banking sick time and also comp time and when they leave or retire they all are going to cash in big , and once again it will be the taxpayers who are going to flip the bill , please keep this in mind when you vote for tax levies.

    • Sue Lawson

      Trust me, I won’t forget!!! Then they wonder why the tax hikes don’t pass.

  • Jack Kilroy

    People should get paid the money they earned, whether they are well-known public figures or obscure unskilled workers. Stewart earned his sick pay and was paid what earned.

    • levtrotsky

      Are you the Kilroy that was on Stewarts/Auditors payroll ????

      • Sue Lawson

        It’s funny that the article for a tax increase is at the bottom of this page. No way would I vote for the increase.

      • http://www.facebook.com/johnpkilroy Jack Kilroy

        Yes, although I formed the belief that people should get paid the money they earned long before I ever heard of Mark Stewart.

        • Elaine Howser Seguin

          Mr. Kilroy you are entitled to your belief whether or not it is sensitive to the hard working taxpayers of Lorain County from whom you draw a living but the way this was done was sneaky and unethical – shame on them and shame on you for defending it.

    • Mark B

      But he earned them at one pay rate (Lower)and then cashed them in at Todays Pay rate.

    • brewmaster

      The policy in place when he accumulated the sick time was that you were not able to cash it out. Now 18 years later he comes back to work for 4 hours and got paid for time that should have been wiped off the books.

    • oldruss

      I find Stewart’s actions distasteful, but have to agree with Mr. Kilroy that everyone, regardless of their position, has the right to earn that which the law says they are entitled receive. In this instance, the accrual of sick leave, like vacation time, and longevity pay, etc., which are all provided for by state law or municiapl ordinance, need to be eliminated. Taxpayers should not have to pay more to public employees than private businesses pay their employees. Sick pay should cover the employee so that if he or she IS sick and cannot work, then the employee does not lose needed pay. It should not be available to public employees to create a “golden parachute” upon their retirement. Stewart did nothing that the law doesn’t allow him to do, but it was odious, nonetheless. It is the law that needs to be changed.

    • Joe Smith

      How did he earn sick pay if he didn’t call off sick?

      He may also have a benefit that they would pay for a heart bypass but since he didn’t use the benefit is he entitled to the $75,000 or whatever?..

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Makes you proud to be a taxpayer, doesn’t it?

  • Sue Lawson

    You don’t have to use your sick pay, be thankful. Don’t expect the taxpayers to pay because you didn’t have to use it. This is ridiculous!!! Remember this taxpayers because they’re trying to get that tax hike to pass in November. Enough is enough!!!!

  • Mike wowk

    Would you people rather that he called in sick every week? Giving paid sick time is a stupid idea in the first place. Giving paid sick time just encourages people to be “sick” when they didn’t feel like going to work. Then the employer is forced to cover that person with time and a half overtime . It would be cheaper to just allow GOOD employees who show up for work everyday with the ability to cash out sick time. With that said….. PAID SICK DAYS ARE STUPID!

    • Daniel Sutter

      Give them a week not 4-6 weeks, usage effects evaluations, make them not carry over… last but most important performance based pay increases (subject to public review, keep the nepotism down)

  • bigmacky

    he retired in 95 as a worker then was elected right? so for 18 years that time was banked? then works 4 hours on a Saturday after retiring and now 6-8 months later he cashes in on a nice chunk of change. that’s how it reads to me and I say
    NO NO NO NO NO NO! this is a loophole a semi could drive through.

  • givemeabreak1234

    Do you hear that “scratch, scratch” I’m sick of this good ole boy system

  • Bruce Tennant

    Most employers don’t even offer sick time anymore….sick time is a pipe dream for a huge segment of the population anymore….those that even have jobs that is….but hey folks….as the saying goes….the people get the government they deserve….and we continue to allow this stuff….yep it’s perfectly legal because we allow it to be…so how about we wake up and make it illegal

  • GreatRedeemer

    There is a fundamental disconnect between government and the
    people. Most don’t have pensions, over generous healthcare benefits and sick
    pay on tap. This attitude of entitlement is horrid.

  • boldlover

    how is it that there getting paid for sick and vacation time if they didnt take it… i know at any other job if we dont use it we dont get paid for it… and lorain county is poor enough so y is it that these people who work for the goverment get to stick us with there bill all the time… if we didnt have to pay so much and taxes and get so little back out coumminty might be ok and not just flat out poor…

  • JoyceEarly

    Just like in the private sector, you don’t use it you lose it. It should not carry over for twenty years. This is insane and needs to be changed!

  • John Boy

    It’s scary that he thinks he is entitled to this and doesn’t see anything wrong. I don’t live in Lorain County anymore, but still consider it home and would like to see it prosper. Please vote for competent people in the future or this will be the typical results.

  • Ray Venn

    What a “D”ouche…

  • Wayne E. Broman

    He got 151 hours of vacation time when he retired in 1995 and no pay for sick time as they didn’t pay for sick time in ’95. If they didn’t pay for it in ’95, it ceased to exist!! Don’t even try to tell me it has been “on the books” for 18 YEARS.

  • Joe Smith

    He may also have a benefit that they would pay for a heart bypass but since he didn’t use the benefit is he entitled to the $75,000 or whatever?….NO

    If sick pay was not used then it should not be paid

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