Top city bureaucrats will lose 'comp time'

July 30, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has issued an order barring highly paid city employees from accruing compensatory time, a change aimed at limiting the amount of severance pay high-ranking bureaucrats receive when they leave city employment.

The new policy will go into effect in January and affect 415 city employees who are paid more than $50,000 a year.

The mayor's decision was made public yesterday by City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean, who had initiated an audit report that recommended tighter vacation- and compensatory-leave policies for the city's white-collar work force.

"I'm happy that the mayor has acted on this," she said. "This

should mean a substantial savings for the city."

Under the new policy, city employees receiving more than $50,000 a year will no longer be credited with compensatory time after January. Any compensatory time they already have accrued will be converted into sick leave. Currently, most city employees leaving city employment can cash in unused sick time at the rate of one day's pay for every three days owed. The new policy also would allow high-ranking employees to be rewarded with as many as 15 days of "permission leave" a year for working on "special projects." That time would be doled out at the discretion of the mayor.

In making his decision, Mr. Schmoke rejected some stricter measures recommended by auditors. Among them was an outright ban on compensatory time for senior officials -- including those who work on special projects -- and requiring lower-level officials to use their compensatory time within one year. Mr. Schmoke also ignored a recommendation that departing city employees no longer be allowed to trade unused sick time for cash.

Still, Ms. McLean estimated that the revisions recommended by Mr. Schmoke should save the city $2.5 million over the next five years.

News of the revised policy caught by surprise at least one official of the association that represents white-collar municipal workers. You know something I don't know," said Jayne M. Ross, vice president of Managerial and Professional Society (MAPS), which represents 1,240 white-collar city employees. "We have not shared in this."

However, Melvin Harris, the city's labor commissioner, said the policy was formed this month after consultation with the union.

The new policy was developed after a committee of finance, civil service and administrative personnel came together at the request of Mr. Schmoke to look at ways at limiting the fiscal impact of compensatory time on the city's coffers.

The audit released last year found that white-collar employees of the city received more liberal leave benefits than comparable workers in other area governments.

Typically, auditors found, high ranking city employees earn significant amounts of compensatory time, which they use in lieu of sick and annual vacation time. They, in turn, save their sick and vacation time, which they then cash in when they leave city employment.

Auditors found that 59 MAPS employees who were eligible for retirement in November 1991 had accrued leave time with an average value of $41,000 each. In one extreme situation, an employee had accumulated enough time to be entitled to receive nearly 17 months' pay plus three months of compensatory time that the employee could have used before retirement.

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