December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County commissioners to notify departments of policy changes

ELYRIA — The Lorain County commissioners said Friday they will likely begin notifying other county departments about personnel policy changes they implement and create an electronic version of their personnel policy handbook.

The move comes after county Auditor Craig Snodgrass complained that he was never given a copy of changes made earlier this year to policies governing how employees cash out their unused sick time when they leave their jobs.

Snodgrass has said he never saw the policy, updated earlier this year, until Wednesday morning.

Because he didn’t have the policy Snodgrass has said didn’t know that his predecessor, Mark Stewart, was entitled to cash out only 250 hours of unused sick time left over from his time as county employee before he became auditor in 1995.

Instead, Snodgrass allowed Stewart to cash out 1,000 of the 1,208.24 hours Stewart had in his sick leave bank at a rate of $18.08 an hour after Stewart worked four hours reviewing case files for the county Board of Revision on a Saturday in April.

But county officials have said that Snodgrass, who didn’t return a call seeking comment Friday, should have known not to pay out more than 250 hours because the commissioners implemented the cap in 2005 for employees who started with the county after Nov. 15, 2005. Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes has said Stewart was considered a new hire under county rules and subject to the 250-hour sick time payout.

Snodgrass has said Stewart has agreed to repay the county for the 750 hours of sick time he improperly received, which works out to $13,560.

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she doesn’t mind improving the notification policy, but doesn’t think Snodgrass’ argument that he didn’t have the most recent policy update absolves him from knowing about the earlier rules, which he did have.

“It doesn’t matter,” Kokoski said. “I think they’re trying to deflect the situation so they don’t look so bad, but I’m sorry, they look bad.”

Snodgrass initially denied that Stewart had worked for him when asked in August and county Treasurer Dan Talarek has said Snodgrass asked him to hire Stewart to work for him earlier this year.

Snodgrass has said he was joking when he asked Talarek to hire Stewart and offered to pay his former boss’ wages out of funds controlled by the auditor’s office.

Theresa Upton, who serves as the commissioner’s clerk, said she doesn’t routinely send out commissioners’ resolutions to other county departments unless it’s something that a particular department has requested. But she noted that the commissioners’ agenda is available online and she provides copies of resolutions to anyone who asks for them.

Upton also said that she sends out the weekly agenda via either fax or email to anyone who requests it. Snodgrass’ office has never asked to receive an agenda, she said.

County Administrator Jim Cordes said while it’s not a requirement that departments run by other elected county officials follow all of the policies the commissioners put in place, the 250-hour cap is one that does apply across county government.

Commissioner Ted Kalo also said that while most county departments and elected officials send a representative to attend commissioners’ meetings, it’s rare to see someone from the auditor’s office.

Kalo said he has no problem making the commissioners’ policies more accessible.

“We’ll do it without a doubt,” he said of the changes that were first proposed by Innes this week.

Innes said other departments have also told him they are unaware of some changes made by the commissioners.

“Any time there’s a problem created by lack of communication I think that communication should be improved,” he said.

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