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Borrowing sick time nixed
May 09, 2006 12:00 am
April 21, 2006 – Starting today, Lebanon city employees can no longer borrow sick time from other employees who have reserves built up, a personnel rules and regulations committee decided Thursday.
The change is one of the first to take effect since a special personnel review committee established by Mayor Don Fox began closely examining some of the more controversial aspects of the city's employee guidelines.
Thursday's move came largely in response to reports of significant abuse of the city's sick leave policy, which personnel office records show cost Lebanon taxpayers at least $250,000 last year.
But the committee honed in on specifically the policy allowing employees to give away their extra sick time to others after it was discovered that Mayor Fox had donated three weeks of leave to his stepgrandson, Rockford Cox. At the time, Cox was on his probationary period with the city.
The Personnel Office also disclosed earlier this week that since 1993, city employees have given out more than 3,100 hours – almost 400 days – to co-workers. And according to the City Personnel Office, only 19 employees – including Cox – were the beneficiaries of those donations.
Members of the committee said Thursday most of the individuals who received large amounts of donated sick time are no longer employed with the city.
Even so, the committee sought to somehow amend the leave donation policy.
Based on last week's meeting, the committee came in Thursday morning prepared to comb over a proposal to create a sick leave "bank."
Wilson County uses a sick leave bank to allow employees who donate to it to be eligible to draw extra time beyond what they are normally allowed in case of medical emergencies.
But after spending nearly an hour going over the plan, the committee moved to scrap it all together. And in one deft move, it tanked the sick bank proposal as well as the old individual leave donation policy.
Many committee members said neither option was needed because the city's base policy of allowing employees to accrue sick hours every year was more than adequate.
"And people forget about all the vacation days we give them. The city is very generous," Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said.
The committee also continued to debate changes to the entire set of rules governing sick time.
All of those changes, though, will have to be approved by City Council.
Fox said he is hopeful the revised sick time rules can be presented to the Council. And while the city is months away from completing a review of the entire set of personnel rules and regulations, some committee members were very happy with the progress.
Speaking about the immediate change to the donation of sick time policy, Ward 6 City Councilor Kathy Warmath said, "This was our single biggest problem."
Staff Writer Jared Allen can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.