A nice piece of reporting by Sam Strike on the monster hiding in the room.
It has been called the “sleeping monster” – the millions of dollars owed to Radnor Township employees for accrued vacation, sick and personal time that was never budgeted for in annual township budgets.
The payouts were to be doled out when an employee left, and according to a report by an attorney, the sleeping monster awoke in 2007 when a number of longtime employees accepted an early retirement package.
About $1.4 million was owed and paid to the retirees that year – a payment not accounted for in the annual budget, according to special counsel Neil A. Morris, who was hired by the township last year to investigate and advise on the vacation-carryover and benefit-accumulation issues.
There now remains $3.7 million waiting to be awarded – likely in 2010 and 2011 – to employees who officials say honestly earned the accumulated time by skipping vacations and working on holidays.
Morris states that the employees did nothing wrong by accepting the practice as it was written in the employees’ handbook, which, before recent changes, stated that employees could not carry over more than two weeks of vacation time to the following year without permission from their department head and the township manager.
The employees will be paid what they are owed – what they earned, officials have said publicly.
But the township’s administrative code, from which the employee handbook is crafted, stated that employees may not carry over vacation time unless approved in writing by the manager, and even then that accumulated time is limited to two weeks.
One current employee according to Morris’ report has accumulated 24 weeks worth.
Dave Bashore, recently fired after managing the township for eight years, pointed to his predecessor, Bob Crofford, now deceased, whom he said allowed vacation carryover, according to the report.
Morris states that as far back as 1994 employees have been allowed to carry over more than two weeks of vacation, but numbers started to spike in 2000.
Further, Morris states that the apparent practice in Radnor was to pay employees upon leaving or retiring their accumulated hours at their ending pay rate, not the rate they were earning at the time they banked the days.
Bashore himself had banked about $73,000 in carryover, although the township has not paid him anything since he was removed from his position in April.
The Board of Commissioners recently based on Morris’ recommendations approved changes to the administrative code and the employee handbook to amend the confusing text. Morris also recommends that the board implement a program to encourage employees to start using their accumulated balances of vacation, sick, personal and compensatory pay.
But according to Radnor interim township manager John Granger, much of the outstanding $3.7 million is likely to be paid out the next two years, partly because of the number of eligible police retirees and because both the police and civil employees’ unions are negotiating new contracts in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Morris’ report also found that salaried employees who were not entitled to overtime pay according to labor regulations were indeed paid overtime – a practice that apparently pre-dated Bashore’s tenure.
Employee-accumulated sick time, which represents the largest liability of the “benefit” accumulations for Radnor Township, totals about $2.1 million according to Morris, of the Philadelphia firm Archer and Greiner. Employees “buy back” sick time at a lower then-pay rate, and according to language in the union contracts the buyback is for retirement only, not for those who are terminated or resign.
Granger said the estimated accumulated time payouts will be included in next year’s budget.