Former Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden received a $23,383 cash payment for 77 unused vacation days when he left office, even though elected officials have no set vacations.
The payment was processed routinely as part of the final Hayden administration payroll submitted Dec. 2, his last full day on the job.
During Mr. Hayden's four-year term, he saved the county $66,000 and lowered his eventual pension by accepting a salary of less than $80,000, while the official salary for executive rose to $100,700.
However, while other county employees' vacations are regulated by personnel rules and union contracts, county law makes no mention of vacations for elected officials.
"It's not illegal," County Attorney Stanley J. Schapiro said of the payment. "There's no regulation that says you can't get it."
The sharpest reactions to the payment seemed to come from Mr. Hayden's fellow Republicans and from county union leaders.
"If it's true, I think it's outrageous," Republican County Councilman Douglas B. Riley said.
"It's contrary to everything he stood for. It's a cheap parting shot to the voters."
Since there is no formula for vacation for elected officials, it was unclear how Mr. Hayden calculated the number of vacation days due him.
His only scheduled vacation during his term came in September 1993 when he took a two-week trip to Virginia to visit relatives. This year, Mr. Hayden was out of his office for most of three months -- from early May to early August -- after a blood vessel burst in his head and brain surgery was required. He worked from home during some of his recuperation time.
County Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly said he personally reviews and approves all pay tickets for people leaving county government and then sends them to the personnel department for approval before finance officials issue a check. Mr. Kelly said he found nothing illegal in Mr. Hayden's request and raised no questions about it.
Mr. Hayden's final check was issued Dec. 9.
Mr. Schapiro, other county officials and two former county executives said they could not recall an elected official getting paid for vacation after the end of a term.
"You're kidding," former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen said. "I would not think it is appropriate. I just find that amazing."
Donald P. Hutchinson, another former executive, agreed. "You're paid for the number of days you're elected for," Mr. Hutchinson said.
The present county executive, C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, said he knew nothing of the payment until several days after he took office.
"I'm going to have to check into it," Mr. Ruppersberger said. "It seems to be contrary to what he campaigned on."
In 1990 and 1994, Mr. Hayden campaigned as a business-oriented cost cutter. In 1992 and 1993, beset by the recession and a drop of $90 million in revenues, he furloughed county workers, laid off 392 people and closed libraries and senior centers. He prided himself on saving even small amounts of public money by doing things like canceling newspaper and magazine subscriptions and using thinner official stationery.
Berchie Lee Manley, a Republican who was a council member until Dec. 5, said she was outraged by the $23,383 payment to Mr. Hayden. "If it's not illegal, let's make it illegal," she said.
"We were straight salary. There is no such thing as unused vacation days."
"That's bad, terrible, it stinks," said Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of Local 921, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which represents blue-collar county employees.
"I think Roger ripped the county off for $23,000 and he ought to pay it back."
Most blue-collar county employees accrue 15 days of vacation a year, according to Anthony Sharbaugh, acting director of personnel.
Marina Brockman, Mr. Hayden's executive secretary for the past two years and a county worker since 1989, was paid $18,891 for 80 unused vacation days.
No other staff member was paid more than $5,000 for unused time.
Ms. Brockman's payout is consistent with past policy for appointed staff workers with no job security. These top appointed workers often use vacation time as a cushion against the sometimes sudden loss of high-paying jobs.
Ms. Brockman, who was paid $61,396 a year, said she is looking for a new position.
Her payout is similar to amounts paid to Mr. Hutchinson's top staffers when he left office in December 1986 after serving eight years.
His executive secretary received $22,722; another top aide got $19,061; a third $23,220.
The difference now is a policy established in 1987 by then-Administrative Officer B. Melvin Cole that limits cash payments to staff workers and county department heads to the value of no more than 80 days of unused vacation.
Howard County's top legal officer said her office researched the general topic in 1986 when a Howard executive moved out of state before his term ended, but didn't immediately leave office or the county payroll.
"There's no concept of leave" for elected officials in home rule counties, County Solicitor Barbara Cook said.
Elected officials "are always on duty, occupying the position," she said, unlike county employees who work set times and accrue set amounts of sick leave and vacation. "They're not like an employee."