Monster loose in Radnor, no need to worry.

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chips's picture
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A nice piece of reporting by Sam Strike on the monster hiding in the room.

Township owes nearly $4 million in benefit pay to employees

Main Line Suburban Life
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
By Sam Strike

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.

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Philly_Foibles's picture
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It's just outrageous. So many closed door deals in Radnor for so many years that the taxpayers just assumed that's the way business was supposed to be done. Besides they always said, look at what a beautiful Township it is and look at our finances. Leave well-enough alone!

Fast forward. Radnor is going broke. Mismanaged for years, they are now taking in boarders at the Township building. Because the old building was too small so they tore it down. The new Taj Mahal came in over budget and now we have too much space. So they are looking to rent it out. ARRRRrrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!!!!! It is maddening.

Now they surprise, surprise are shocked to find out employees are banking sick time, comp time and vacation time for payout when they leave. This was the worst kept secret in the Township. The Township employees used to brag about the perk... and rightfully so. No one else anywhere got this type of benefit. Remember when the BOC got all defensive over the back-rubs we complained we were paying for?! Seems quaint now doesn't it?

We just heard a rumor, and it is just a rumor, that the Township management failed to pay some insurance premiums. And, now the Township (the taxpayers) are going to have to make the payouts from the general fund. See: Rumor: Radnor Township Forgot to Make Insurance Payments?

When are the Radnor Township Voters going to rebel? The Commissioners are bankrupting them. They can blame the economy all they want. But they have mismanaged this Township for years.

They gave Dave Bashore a sweetheart contract. It was negotiated behind closed doors and they even gave him a large "forgivable" loan. Huh? Are we Dave's Mom and Dad? That's the only type of forgivable loan I ever heard of. The Archer and Greiner Report author was shocked at how one sided Dave's very expensive contract was. It's no wonder they kept it secret from us!

But that wasn't enough. Former Commissioner Jim Pierce advised the Township Auditor IN WRITING that Dave Bashore had wide authority and discretion over employee bonuses. Did that include Dave's own bonus? Who knows. But it will be hard to prove in court that it didn't include Dave's Bonus as the BOC abdicated ALL their responsibility to Dave!

Now litigation with Bashore is on the horizon and we have incurred huge legal fees so far. They will only get bigger. The large majority of employee lawsuits are won by the employee... the amount of legal fees we are paying for this fiasco are only growing. And we may have to pay Dave and his lawyer too!

So, now we have all these unanticipated legal fees. We have $4mm in "unanticipated" and un-budgeted employee expenses.

Add to the debt the fact that e are paying an exorbitant amount for all these carpetbaggers from Bucks County.

Want more? well, we are, apparently sweetening the Police Chiefs contract so he won't quit.

At the same time, property values are stagnating and real estate sales, the tax on which is a big tax source, are stagnant.

The Township is in horrendous shape financially. And, other than John Fisher, no one seems to notice.

It is time to throw the rascals out. They are driving the ship into an iceberg.

I apologize for my rant Chips. And I apologize for straying a bit from your topic. But I find the incompetence of the BOC maddening and the apathy of the voters more so.

PF

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JohnN's picture
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PF, great post, not a rant.
Good to see someone else recognising this reality.
BTW, I also give Kevin credit for digging in to these issues and Tom for his willingness to "Boldly go, etc" although I was disappointed in both of them accussing John of grandstanding.

And please remember all of this has happened because the taxpayers have failed to do their part and have chosen to be uninvolved.

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politeia's picture
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John,

This has happened because those elected by the taxpayers in the form of the Radnor Board of Commissioners dropped the ball bigtime, though there was and certainly is apathy by citizens/taxpayers/voters in Radnor and everywhere.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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Politeia,
Agree completely. And the malaise extends all the way to the federal level.

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RadnorLawyer's picture
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And please remember all of this has happened because the taxpayers have failed to do their part and have chosen to be uninvolved.

Oh really, John? You think it's the fault of Radnor's taxpayers, and that these taxpayers have "[c]hosen to be uninvolved"?

I unequivocally disagree with you. In fact, I think your position is totally contradicted by the record.

For those unfamiliar, the significant issue of accumulated benefits begins and ends with the Board of Commissioners (and the Township Manager, and, likely the Township Soliciter's) interpretation of Radnor's Charter, as well as the interpretation of the Employee Handbook.

These entities and individuals (either willfully or inadvertently) interpreted allegedly ambiguous language (I say "alleged", because I've read the language, and I don't find it ambiguous in the least) contained in the Charter and Handbook in a light most beneficial to township employees, and, conversely, in a manner that was unreasonably financially injurious to their true clients: Radnor's taxpayers.

As such, when employees left the township, they were able to collect large amounts of "accrued benefits" (including unused vacation days and unused personnel days) which many, including me, believe that (a) they never should have been permitted to accumulate, or, alternatively, (b) they never should have been permitted to accumulate to the degree permitted by the Board of Commissioners and the Township Manager.

Now, normally, when one or two employees left Radnor Township in a given year, the accumulated amounts were not large enough to be detected by even a trained, watchful eye. However, several years ago, a large amount of employees left the township simultaneously, and the resulting expenditure in "accrued benefits" was significant. As such, the issue was spotted and brought to the forefront by Radnor resident and taxpayer, Christina Perrone. Ms. Perrone is not on the Board of Commissioners, nor is she a solicitor, nor is she a Township Manager. She is a taxpayer, and she, along with (among other persons) Diane Edbril, ensured that this issue was addressed and discussed at televised Radnor Township Commissioner meetings...and she is owed, at minimum, a heartfelt expression of gratitude...and not, conversely, your derision.

So no, John, I don't think "[a]ll of this has happened because the taxpayers have failed to do their part and have chosen to be uninvolved." Putting temporarily aside the glaring fact that this issue was brought forward by a taxpayer (Ms. Perrone), the taxpayers do not offer binding interpretations of Radnor's Charter and Employee Handbook. Likewise, the taxpayers do not usually have unrestricted access to Radnor's employee payrolls and severance/retirement information.

In sum, I find your "A pox on everyone's house" argument that blames, in part, Radnor's taxpayers, to be (a) inaccurate, (b) devoid of any intellectual merit, and (c) completely disrespectful to the individuals and taxpayers in Radnor Township who are actually willing to investigate important issues and, more importantly, demand accountability.

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Woozaleedoodle's picture
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Yup.

To blame the taxpayers of Radnor for this issue, and to further say that they weren't involved, is RIDICULOUS. I have seen Christina Perrone on multiple occasions address the Board of Commissioners on this very issue. She does a great job!

John Nagle apparently really likes the theme 'taxpayer disinterest', and I agree that apathy sometimes plays a role in Radnor's problems. But John applies this theme with wayyyyy too broad of brush, and in this situation, John is totally wrong. The taxpayers (especially Mrs. Perrone) brought this issue to the stove, and kept it on the burner. The fault (as Chip points out) rests with members of the B.O.C, and likely with higher employed management (like the Township Manager).

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ChickenSandwich's picture
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its absurd for john nagle to claim that the taxpayers in radnor 'have chosen to be uninvolved'. anybody who actually watches the meetings can plainly see that many taxpayers do get involved and do speak out.

and as someone who watches almost every commissioner meeting and school board meeting in radnor, i certainly agree with dan sherry and dooodle - christina perrone (taxpayer) and other taxpayers were the ones banging pots and pans together on the issue of accrued benefits in a very public manner.

john, swear-to-god, im not being condescending or rude, but im getting the sense that the reason you think radnors taxpayers have 'failed to do their part and have chosen to be uninvolved' is due to the fact that these same taxpayers didnt elect you when you ran for 5th ward commissioner in 2007. again, not to be rude but, for the life of me, that is the only explanation/excuse i can think of for your recent actions.

let me be clear - i certainly think you, john nagle, certainly would be a far better commissioner than lisa paolino - but its not fair for you to begrudge the entire township, and smear all of radnors taxpayers as disinterested failures.

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JohnN's picture
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Dan, you unequivocally disagree with me? Wow, that means that I must be right. Once again you twist my words. How many years were the various practices in place? Certainly many years before Ms Perrone stood up (and thanks to her for all her hard work). So yes, a taxpayer did finally speak up but where were all the other taxpayers for all those years?

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RadnorLawyer's picture
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Dan, you unequivocally disagree with me? Wow, that means that I must be right.

If you say so, John.

Once again you twist my words.

I'd hate to think I was doing that, John.

How many years were the various practices in place?

Too long for my liking, John.

Certainly many years before Ms Perrone stood up (and thanks to her for all her hard work).

I still don't see how that's the taxpayers' fault, John.

So yes, a taxpayer did finally speak up but where were all the other taxpayers for all those years?

Probably not giving binding interpretations of Radnor's Charter and the Employee manual...because that's not their job, John.

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chips's picture
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Former Commissioner Jim Pierce advised the Township Auditor IN WRITING that Dave Bashore had wide authority and discretion over employee bonuses. Did that include Dave's own bonus? Who knows. But it will be hard to prove in court that it didn't include Dave's Bonus as the BOC abdicated ALL their responsibility to Dave!

PF,

I would assume both, Jim and Hank can read the charter; their authority comes from acting as a body not from their titles.

There is no evidence that the rest of the board approved or even knew of Bashore's contract. Just because Jim and Hank said that," the Board of Commissioners would like the details of the township's employment agreement with the Township Manager to not be disclosed..." does not mean that the board actually took any official action in that regard.

Everything I've seen so far points to Jim and Hank acting as individuals and expressing their personal opinions and not that of their clueless boards. It's my understanding that once full BOC learned of the agreement's existence last year they launched the investigation that produced the report that said the Sunshine and RTK laws were broken. Unanswered is who is it that broke the law, Jim and Hank ? Or the full Board of Commissioners?

There was one commissioner, Dave Cannan, who tried to blow the whistle on Bashore and get the board to see that he was acting without authority and board knowledge. Hank Mahoney has a lot to answer for...

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chips's picture
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John, WTF: Malaise (IPA /mə'leɪz/, mal-aze) is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness...That seems about right considering the near total failure of Radnor's paid administrators, Commissioners and appointed committee members to its residents, yes? Were they wrong to trust?

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Woozaleedoodle's picture
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Chip - I was also confused by John Nagle's use of the word 'malaise'.

On his first posting on this thread, John falsely describes Radnor's residents as apathetic cowards (who have, according to John, 'failed to do their part'), and on his very next post, John accurately describes Radnor residents as having feelings of general discomfort or uneasiness (malaise) about their elected officials.

So which is it, John? Should Radnor's anthem be Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry be Happy', or should it be Twisted Sister's 'We're Not Gonna Take It'? Pick one, dude - and stop hedging your bets!

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So which is it, John? Should Radnor's anthem be Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry be Happy', or should it be Twisted Sister's 'We're Not Gonna Take It'? Pick one, dude - and stop hedging your bets!

well said, doodle. john will likely get back to you when he is finished eating his apple-flavored banana, which he will wash down with a chocolate-flavored vanilla milkshake. the man sure knows how to cover his bases!

have any of the commissioner candidates in radnor(waldron or schaefer) publicly commented on this issue? it sure seems like most of the bigger issues in radnor zip right over schaefers noggin, but it would surprise me if waldron doesnt grasp the extent of this problem - she should def try to talk about it.

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JohnN's picture
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CS you certainly know how to misread folks comments don't you? Contrary to what Woozy typed I never used the word coward, that is her projection not mine. Also the choice between the two songs makes no sense in the context of the discussion. Have you seens mobs of taxpayers storming the Township Building regarding the recent issues? No, it is pretty much the same group as usually attend the meetings.

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Woozaleedoodle's picture
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Have you seens mobs of taxpayers storming the Township Building regarding the recent issues? No, it is pretty much the same group as usually attend the meetings.

Actually John, there were 'mobs of taxpayers' during Dave Bashore's termination hearing (and his suspension hearing).

And in terms of 'storming', I did see you 'storm out' of the Township Building during a recent Board of Commissioner meeting while Dan Sherry was speaking at the podium - gotta love video cameras!

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CS you certainly know how to misread folks comments don't you?

no. not at all. why would you think that? i make sure to read every word very carefully, and i love to use blockquote to make sure that i dont misread.

Also the choice between the two songs makes no sense in the context of the discussion.

i thought doodle made a very good point with the songs, based on your previous comments.

Have you seens mobs of taxpayers storming the Township Building regarding the recent issues? No, it is pretty much the same group as usually attend the meetings.

nope. from what i see on camera, there are more people at the meetings. however, during the summer (when the b.o.c. only has one meeting a month instead of two), the attendance dwindles after the meeting goes over a few hours.

but you know what really fascinates me - the fact that the non-incumbent commissioner candidates really havent stepped up to the podium. i havent seen curly, waldron, or schaefer speak at the mic.

instead, ive only seen (as chips pointed out) schaefer making goofy faces and giggling in the audience. and john, since you sat next to her at the july meeting, why didnt you tap her on the shoulder and tell her to act a little more grown up? schaefer might not know how to behave on camera, but based on your experience doing 'political potpourri' on radnors cable channel, you certainly do!

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JohnN's picture
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WTF, Chip, you need to resort to the dictionary to make a point?

So why not post the entire definition?
mal·aise
Pronunciation: \mə-ˈlāz, ma-, -ˈlez\
Function: noun
Etymology: French malaise, from Old French, from mal- + aise comfort — more at ease
Date: circa 1768
1 : an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2 : a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being

My response was to a post by Poleteia about the general lack of involvement of the taxpayers. I was attempting to suggest that this was "condition" that appears to afflict folks all the way up the ladder of local, state and federal levels. This is fairly well demonstrated by such basic measures as voter turn-out.

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chips's picture
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Yes John, I often do check a dictionary when a word is used in a way that is inconsistent with my understanding, sorry.

Let me suggest that apathy better suits your intentions: Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.

You would still be wrong, but I think it's a better fit. Just my 2¢.

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chips's picture
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John, FYI: malaise is a very loaded word. You may recall it didn't work out so well when Carter used it in his most memorable speech. I would respectfully suggest that the criticism Carter rightly received for his misreading of the American people is just as relevant to your misreading of the residents of Radnor.

The op-ed pieces started spinning out, 'Why don't you fix something? There's nothing wrong with the American people. We're a great people. Maybe the problem's in the White House, maybe we need new leadership to guide us.'" Historian Roger Wilkins concurs: "When your leadership is demonstrably weaker than it should be, you don't then point at the people and say, 'It's your problem.' If you want the people to move, you move them the way Roosevelt moved them, or you exhort them the way Kennedy or Johnson exhorted them. You don't say, 'It's your fault.'"

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chip, very good points. id say that this recent comment by john nagle is very similar to the carter speech-

And please remember all of this has happened because the taxpayers have failed to do their part and have chosen to be uninvolved.

and to think, i thought john had hit the basement when he called dave cannan a 'not particularly effective' commissioner. i guess it goes to show that you dont hit bottom until you really hit bottom.

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