April 19, 2014

Elyria
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Commissioners may revise how employees cash out on unused sick time after $18K payout

ELYRIA — The Lorain County commissioners are considering whether to revise how county employees can cash out unused sick time in the wake of a controversial $18,080 payout to former county Auditor Mark Stewart in April.

Commissioner Tom Williams said he wants to bring the county policy closer in line to what he said the Ohio Revised Code calls for.

Mark Stewart retires 1.jpg

Mark Stewart
FILE PHOTO/THE CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM

He said if the policy were to change, county employees would be limited to being paid for 240 hours of unused sick time, but in order to get the full payout, they would need to bank four times as many hours as they would be paid for.

The county allows workers hired before Nov. 15, 2005, to cash out up to 1,000 hours of unused sick time. Those hired after that can cash out up to 250 hours. Both of those are paid at an hour-for-hour basis.

“As budgetary authority for the county, why should we go above what the state allows?” Williams said Wednesday.

Stewart had 1,208.24 hours of unused sick time when he went from being a county worker to the elected auditor in 1995. At that time he was allowed to cash out his unused vacation time, but not his sick leave.

After retiring at the end of 2012, Stewart was hired by his successor, Craig Snodgrass, to review paperwork for the countyBoard of Revision. Stewart worked for four hours on a Saturday in April before resigning and cashing out 1,000 hours.

When the payout became public earlier this month, county officials said that Stewart was considered a new hire under its payout policy and he was only entitled to receive payment for 250 unused sick hours. Snodgrass has said Stewart has since agreed to refund the county 750 hours worth of pay, valued at $13,560.

Snodgrass, who initially denied that Stewart had worked for him, has said that he never received a copy of the most recent revisions to the policy, approved by the commissioners earlier this year. But the commissioners and Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes have said the 2005 policy would have prevented Stewart from receiving more than 250 hours.

The commissioners have also said they will likely improve their process of notifying other county departments and elected officials about changes in policy.

Williams’ fellow commissioners, Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski, said they still want to examine what the legal impact of any change to the sick leave payout policy would be.

Kalo and Kokoski also said it wouldn’t be fair to change the policy in a way that impacts current workers.

“I don’t feel it’s right to go back on a benefit an employee has been working under,” Kalo said.

Bev Beidelman, chief deputy clerk of courts, told the commissioners Wednesday that paying out cash for unused sick time isn’t necessarily a problem under the current system. She said many county workers aren’t taking home large paychecks and the payout is a nice benefit for them at the end of long careers.

“Think about the employees, because a lot of them don’t make a lot and have invested a lot (in the county),” she said.

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

  • oldruss

    The problem is that the Commissioners start with the premise that accrual of sick time is some “right” that public employees, paid by the taxpayers, are entitled to receive. And, Kalo and Kokoski both said that this “right” should be guaranteed for any and all employees presently on the taxpayers’ payroll.

    Horse Manure.

    The private sector changes benefits whenever it suits them an all employees, past, present and future are subject to those changes.
    The private sector does not provide for the accrual of sick time, like former Auditor Stewart’s $18,000 golden parachute pay day, that was finagled for him by his former deputy, and current Auditor, Craig Snodgrass.

    If you’re playing with the taxpayers’ money, I guess it’s like Monopoly Money, spend, spend, spend.

    • Tom

      I think it’s a very easy fix. On January 1, you get x amount of sick time. You get all year to use it and if you don’t by December 31, you get a check for what you didn’t use and it starts all over again. Why is that so hard?

      • stillsleepyeyes

        use it or lose it…….plain and simple…………….

  • GreatRedeemer

    This cloak of entitlement is what the problem is. Most people don’t have these benefits and I hardly think that the auditor was paid a paupers salary. Most people are paying thousands of dollars for health care where county employees enjoy golden care. No, this should be a use it or loose it policy not a piggy bank. Also when will the private account that Mr. Stewart was paid these sick days from be looked into. Does not the general fund pay county employees ?

    • publicnurse

      County employees do not get “golden care.” We opted for my husband’s insurance because it is much more affordable and better coverage than my county employee plan for our family. As a county employee, I can call in sick, yes. But if I leave the job, I get NONE of that sick pay, period, only vacation and personal time accrued. This is at a county hospital.

  • JoyceEarly

    The goal should be how it impacts the taxpayers, not the employees. Get it right commissioners. You work for us not the employees.

  • Beentheredonethat

    A lot of past practices need to be looked at. The taxpayers of Lorain county are tapped out and the people who work for the cities and counties need to realize that! What’s been done in the past is why we are in finical trouble now.
    I wish the economy was better and more people had good paying jobs but it’s not and things don’t look good in the near future either!

  • levtrotsky

    Taking an extra $13,500 he was not entitled too, and with Snodgrass’s approval,
    is the major issue. Revising the rules is a separate issue.
    Hopefully the Grand Jury will consider reviewing this financial manipulation.

    • Denise Caruloff

      there needs to be accountability!!!!!!!!!!….this whole thing is BS…remember all this folks when next election of commissioners…the gambit has been run..(right into the ditch)…but hey…we have a tax proposal on the ballot…ha…good luck with that now…I was going to support…but not now.

  • Americaschild

    our tax dollars unaccounted for and probably more than this thru the years spent, wasted and lost

  • JustTheFacts

    The Ohio Revised Code mandates the accrual of sick leave for all state, county and municipal governments. The Lorain County Commissioner’s do not have the legislative authority to change the amount of sick leave received or carried over. However, they do have the authority to decide how any accrued sick leave is paid out.

  • Guest

    This was clearly graft. If the work needed to be done, the Auditor could have avoided all appearance of impropriety by putting the former Auditor on a consulting contract, rather than hiring as a employee. That would be a common practice and transparent to all. The Chronicle should request all e-mails for the months surrounding this event. I am sure the they would be a treasure trove of information. The Prosecutor should convene a Grand Jury to look further.

  • DCAinSLC

    This has the appearance of potential graft. If the work needed to be done, the Auditor could have avoided all appearance of impropriety by putting the former Auditor on a consulting contract, rather than hiring as a employee. That would be a common practice and transparent to all. The Chronicle should request all e-mails for the months surrounding this event. I am sure they would shed more light on the matter and are probably backed up on a county owned computer server. The Prosecutor might want to convene a Grand Jury to look further.