Joetopia

Once again, taxpayers in the dark on pricey city employee departures

Joe TaricaNovember 16, 2013 

City Attorney Rob Schultz is moving on from Morro Bay, and again a local governmental agency is paying a high-ranking public employee not to work.

Also, again, we have no idea why. I won’t rehash how irritating this is. (I just did that a couple of weeks ago.)

As far as Morro Bay goes, Schultz is only half the story, as City Manager Andrea Lueker will likely be following in his footsteps, collecting taxpayer dollars to spend her time on other endeavors. We won’t know why that must happen either.

Who knows, the new council majority may very well be on target with these moves. Evidence does suggest that the outgoing leadership may have been trying to shield the two city executives when it boosted their severance pay last November, shortly before they were voted out of office.

Perhaps they thought by increasing the severance, the new majority would be less inclined to oust Schultz and Lueker. Or maybe they knew the hammer would fall after their exit and were just looking to reward some longtime employees while they still had the power.

See what happens when we get into these civic messes and no one reveals the true motivations? I’m left to wild speculation.

In any case, it’s always illuminating to get a look at the contracts bestowed upon public officials. Of Schultz’s impending $163,235 parting gift, more than $47,000 is coming from accrued holiday, sick and vacation time.

According to the separation agreement, Schultz had 56 hours of unpaid holiday time, which is kind of amazing, because when do you ever see city workers in the office on a holiday? It’s not like the Fourth of July celebration at Tidelands Park requires the services of the city attorney.

Schultz also had racked up 531 hours of unused vacation time, which amounts to more than 13 paid weeks off. Hey, Morro Bay, how about as part of this housecleaning, you cap the amount of vacation time that employees can roll over?

Which leads me to Schultz’s unused sick time: That benefit tallied up to a whopping 625 hours, or almost 16 weeks. Fortunately, a clause in his contract only allowed him to cash out $4,500 of what could have been a $45,000 bill. Finally, a bit of frugality. But who gets that much sick time? And is there any limit to how much such an employee can accrue?

Yet again, we observers on the outside can only watch and shake our heads. Hopefully, the powers-that-be in Morro Bay know what they’re doing, because just like almost every other government personnel move, these games of musical chairs don’t come cheap.

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at jtarica@thetribunenews.com or on Twitter @joetarica.

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