Bill would make donating leave pay easier

Clarence Van Hoose
courtesy of Stacey Van Hoose
Blakeslee Bill
Local 04-30-10
Clarence Van Hoose courtesy of Stacey Van Hoose Blakeslee Bill Local 04-30-10

When well-respected California Men’s Colony correctional Lt. Clarence Van Hoose died Jan. 7 after a long battle with brain cancer, co-workers sought a way to help his family financially.

About 30 CMC workers committed to transferring some vacation and personal leave pay to his wife, Stacey, and their four daughters for the family to cash out.

But a state bureaucratic hang-up blocked their effort.

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, has introduced a bill that seeks to rectify the issue affecting the Van Hoose family and beneficiaries of other state employees who may run into a similar situation.

CMC employees hit a snag because Clarence Van Hoose took early medical retirement Dec. 29, a week before he died.

His co-workers sought to donate leave credits to Van Hoose, which would have totaled about $35,000 for his family, said Bob Furster, a felony correctional lieutenant at CMC.

But the state’s Office of Labor Relations and Human Resources denied the credit transfer, saying leave donations may apply only to those on active pay status, and not retired employees.

Blakeslee’s bill would allow families to collect up to $50,000 of donated leave pay within 12 months of the state employee’s retirement if the person dies from a nonwork-related illness or injury.

“(The bill) honors our public safety employees by getting out of the way — and allowing them to rally together in an act of support, sacrifice and tribute to one of their own,” Blakeslee said in a statement.

The sacrifice of donating leave is especially great because those who donate must pay taxes on the money the recipient cashes out.

Van Hoose, who lived with his family in Paso Robles before he died at age 41, was their “guiding force,” his wife, Stacey, said.

Stacey Van Hoose said that she and their four daughters — ages 10 to 20 — lost “a wonderful role model” in Clarence and she lost “my best friend and the person who gave me strength these last three years” of battling the cancer.

“We all feel the emptiness and void from him not being here,” she said. “Everything his co-workers have done for the family and Clarence is beyond any words.”

Van Hoose, who now lives with her daughters in Atascadero, said she hasn’t begun collecting on her husband’s retirement.

The family will depend on her sole income as a medical technical assistant with Salinas Valley State Prison. But she said bills that accumulated over the three years that Clarence battled the disease linger.

Clarence worked as a California correctional officer for 19 years — including three years at CMC.

“Clarence was the kind of guy who made you want to be a better person by just being around him,” Furster said. “He cheered up people around him going through tough times when he was dealing with the toughest situation of all. He was that kind of guy.”