Fired council employee bills county for over $8,000 Former Gray assistant claims compensatory time

September 11, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

A Howard County Council employee fired last month by Councilman C. Vernon Gray has billed the county for more than $8,000 in back wages that she says she earned in 1 1/2 years as his assistant.

Ann Chambers of Columbia's Harper's Choice village, who couldn't be reached for comment, was Gray's special assistant from March 1995 until he fired her Aug. 2 for reasons he declined to discuss publicly.

Afterward, she requested about $8,100 for 385 hours of compensatory time she said she accumulated but never used. Each of the five County Council members has an assistant who earns about $40,000 a year and is required to work 35 hours each week.

The council hasn't decided whether to pay Chambers, but Chairman Darrel E. Drown said the county's Office of Law probably would rule that it must.

"That was a kick in the teeth," said Drown, an Ellicott City Republican. "People shouldn't be taking $8,000 when they leave employment."

Special assistants handle the business of council members, who have the power to hire them, fire them and set the terms of their employment.

Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, said he did not know Chambers was accumulating compensatory time and did not approve it.

"I was absolutely shocked, dumbfounded almost," Gray said.

He said his new assistant, Sharon Dehaney, who started Monday, will not earn compensatory time.

Gray urged the council to establish a clear policy so council members could monitor assistants' compensatory time.

Chambers accumulated her compensatory time by recording the hours she worked beyond the normal 35-hour week on a line on her time card.

Council Administrator Chris Emery, who says he has no authority over the council members' special assistants, signed the time cards each week.

The 12 employees directly under his supervision can accumulate compensatory time but must use it within two weeks, he said.

Two other special assistants, Peter Beck, who works for Councilman Charles C. Feaga, and Gail Hare, who works for Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, receive compensatory time.

Emery said they have used it only to make their schedules more flexible, not to bolster their pay.

Drown said he hopes to get all five council members to simply eliminate compensatory time for their special assistants.

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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