November 23, 2014

Elyria
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Former county auditor agrees to return most of unused sick time payout

Mark R. Stewart / CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Mark R. Stewart / CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Former Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart has agreed to return most of the $18,080 he was paid when he cashed out 1,000 hours of unused sick time earlier this year, county Auditor Craig Snodgrass said Wednesday.

Stewart, who did not return calls seeking comment, worked for four hours on a Saturday in April reviewing cases for the county Board of Revision and then resigned in a letter to Snodgrass saying the work wasn’t what he anticipated.

Stewart earned $72.32 for the four hours he worked and cashed out the 1,000 hours of unused sick time at a rate of $18.08, the same rate of pay he was earning when he made the jump from county employee to elected official in 1995.

Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes said that under county rules that went into effect in 2005, Stewart was only eligible to cash out 250 hours of the 1,208.24 hours in unused sick time left over from his time as a county worker.

County employees who started before Nov. 15, 2005, are eligible to be paid for 1,000 hours, but he said Stewart wasn’t grandfathered in by the rule because of his break in service.

“The way the county policy reads is when you come back you’re considered a new employee,” Innes said.

But Innes also said there was no minimum amount of time Stewart had to be an employee before he could quit and cash out the unused sick time he was entitled to.

Snodgrass said he talked to Stewart after discussing the policy with Innes.

“We’ve just got to figure out what the difference is and he’ll write a check for the difference,” Snodgrass said.

If Stewart does repay the county for 750 hours worth of sick time at a rate of $18.08 an hour, he would owe $13,560.

County Commissioner Ted Kalo, who asked county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office to review Stewart’s payout after it was reported by The Chronicle-Telegram on Sunday, said he was pleased to learn of Stewart’s plans to return some of the money.

“I’m glad Mark stepped up to do that since he wasn’t supposed to get the money in the first place,” Kalo said.

Stewart’s agreement to repay the county came just hours after Kalo and the other county commissioners blasted the payout — which they said they didn’t know anything about — during their meeting Wednesday.

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said the commissioners had no control over the payout, which came out of a special real estate assessment fund controlled by Snodgrass.

“It just makes the county look bad,” she said.

The commissioners also worried that Stewart’s payout could have a negative impact on their efforts to pass a 0.5 percent temporary sales tax increase that is coupled with a rollback of some property taxes in November. County officials have said that the move is necessary to avoid cuts and deal with capital improvements that have been put off for years by the county’s budget woes.

Lorain National Bank President Dan Klimas sent Kalo and Kokoski an email demanding an explanation after reading about the payout. The commissioners said they fielded numerous other complaints from residents about Stewart’s actions.

“How can you ask the business community and the general population to support a tax increase and waste money like this,” Klimas wrote. “Please provide me an explanation that justifies what appears to be a ‘favor’ being offered to a friend at the expense of taxpayers.”

Snodgrass, who initially denied that Stewart had worked for him when asked in August, was Stewart’s longtime chief deputy before taking over as auditor with Stewart’s backing earlier this year.

Snodgrass has said that he asked his predecessor to do some work for the Board of Revision because he needed the help and Stewart had the necessary expertise to do the work. He said last week that he had expected Stewart to work for far longer than he did.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-714 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.


  • Beentheredonethat

    Hats off to Brad Dicken for bringing this to the voters attention! Now everyone in goverment is in cover our a** mode as they realize the voters can see the “good old boy” network is still alive and well in Lorain County!
    Well this voter is fed up with the status qou and is just going to vote no to any and all tax issues!
    We need to elect officals who work for us not the same old merry go round we have had forever.
    Hard to elect new people for many reasons but easier to starve the beast by voting down increases!

    • Bruce Tennant

      we need to change the laws that allow this stuff. How about a ballot initiative

    • Mark B

      It used to be that Journalism was a true form of news and reporters did stories like this all the time to keep people honest, but today most of the media is in the pockets of the positions and they could care less about the little working person. Just imagine how many more papers the CT would sell if they took up the side of the working person and continued to show the true colors of our city and county government. I ask the CT to publish a list of all Elyria City provided vehicles , to who and why they needed them , but they never ran the story, and doubt they ever will , although I bet many taxpayers of Elyria would certainly be enlightened by it

      • Sue Lawson

        That would be a good story.

  • Elaine Howser Seguin

    I certainly hope that voters will remember and hold Craig Snodgrass accountable for this at the next election.

  • MrRespect

    What a shame! I wouldn’t think Snodgrass would stoop to this level and put his credibility at risk the way he did. One term and out!

    • oldruss

      And who is going to run against him? This is Lorain County where one party rule is the rule of the day.

  • GreatRedeemer

    He is still keeping 250 hours. Nice to give back what may not have been due.
    However its not charity and the entitled government employee is just wrong. From fat salaries, to pensions unknown in the private sector to health care the envy of all, then with a wink wink nod nod, sure you can work 4 hours and claim your sick pay prize. The laws need changed, but those making the law are in the same lucrative compensation world.
    So if this is how our tax money is used, why should anyone vote for issue 1.

    • Mark B

      He is still a CROOK , just not as big as original , both of them should be put in JAIL

  • Denise Caruloff

    greed….never enough for those who froth at the mouth for money. Thanks CT..doing the job you are paid to do. Good riddens Stewart….now how about the double….triple dippers? (make sure you take a photo of the returned amount for the record..and for us to see…CT!

  • JoyceEarly

    Snodgrass did his old buddy a solid and brought him back for just enough time to make him eligible for a $4,250 payout because of a loophole. Don’t tell me they both didn’t know about the loophole but took full advantage. We have to remember this at election time. Good Ole Boys running government and you have disgusting stuff like this happening. Sickening!

  • oldruss

    And why have the County Commissioners, Kalo, Kokoski, and Williams, not changed the work rules for county employees to eliminate accrual of sick time, vacation time, longevity pay, etc.?

    The simple answer is that many county employees, appointed or hired by county elected officials, are Democrats who are beholden to their bosses and to the Democrat Party that runs the county. While two of the three commissioners are Democrats, don’t look for any changes to be made.

    They’re just takin’ care of their brothers and sisters.

  • levtrotsky

    Is he any different than a shoplifter who gets caught and agrees to return the item?? Nope, both are still thief’s!!!

  • Peter Aldrich

    Sorry…..I think he was entitled to every penny….

    • stillsleepyeyes

      Then you pay him out of your pocket…………….

    • MrRespect

      If he was entitled to it, why then didn’t he cash it in when he retired? Bringing him back for four hours and playing games just doesn’t look legitimate. Working four hours and leaving a hand written note explaining the work was not what he expected is pure BS! He ran the Department forever, how would he not know? Investigation please!

      • Peter Aldrich

        He couldn’t as an elected official. Had to be an employee

        • oldruss

          Why didn’t he cash in his accrued sick pay at the time he took the elected auditor’s positon? As an elected official he didn’t earn any sick pay. His hours as auditor were his own, to come and go as he pleased.