Expressing concern about the amount of compensatory time logged by legislative assistants and overtime for paid secretaries, the Howard County Council chairman said yesterday that he has taken the unusual step of asking the county auditor to audit the legislative staff.
Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he also is asking the county personnel office to study the council staff because of concerns about duplication of effort and "some frustration about the direction of the office." He declined to be more specific.
Mr. Gray acknowledged that it was "unusual" to request an audit of his staff because the council typically directs the auditor to examine executive branch offices.
"We are trying to get the legislative [branch] in much better pTC shape on assigning staff members and improve the relationships between the legislative assistants and the special assistants" to each council member, he said.
He said he has instructed the council's executive secretary to control compensatory time and develop a policy.
"The legislative aides are professionals, and there is no clock on professional people," he said, noting that some legislative assistants have logged as many as six weeks of compensatory time.
Ronald S. Weinstein, the county auditor, said he hoped to have a final report next month and to make recommendations on compensatory time for the council's three legislative assistants and overtime for its six secretaries.
The secretaries received a total of $22,000 in overtime pay over the past fiscal year, he said.
Overtime and compensatory time figures for previous years were not available.
Hugh Forton, the council's executive secretary, said the county code requires him to authorize compensatory time for the legislative assistants.
They work at least 7 1/2 extra hours monthly for legislative night meetings, besides other night and weekend assignments, he said.
Councilman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, said the council has been "negligent in not establishing a compensatory time policy."
Mr. Farragut questioned whether assistants should be compensated "an hour for an hour" and whether all three assistants should attend each council meeting. He called for a special council work session to develop a policy.
Mr. Weinstein said the council could promote the three legislative aides one pay grade, which would exempt them from overtime and compensatory pay.