Council agrees to pay bonus

$65,800 to be divided among 64 workers under scrapped deal

April 19, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

The Anne Arundel County Council has agreed to pay $68,500 to 64 county employees who were promised short-lived bonuses under an incentive payment program that was drawn up by county staff but later scrapped by the council.

Mike Akers, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 582, affirmed at the council meeting this week that his union will drop a lawsuit against the county that sought to claim incentive pay under a program negotiated in November 2002 with the Department of Public Works to increase recycling and reduce the amount of trash at the Millersville landfill.

The bonus system was not approved at the time of inception by the County Council - although approval was required. Informed about the program during the review of the fiscal 2004 budget, the council killed it in May 2003, seven months after it took effect. The workers were not paid.

The lawsuit by Local 582 led to a proposed settlement agreement, which the council approved on a 7-0 vote Monday night. The settlement will provide payments to employees in Locals 582 and 2563, along with nonunion workers and retirees.

"This is very, very troubling ... and these people have waited years to be paid," said County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat. She criticized personnel chief Mark Atkisson and others in Executive Janet S. Owens' administration for not being forthcoming about the short-lived incentive program to increase recycling at the Millersville landfill.

Some council members said the need to follow through on a commitment to those employees - not the lawsuit - influenced their decision.

"I [would] have heartburn not passing it because the employees thought it was a go," said County Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Pasadena Republican. He added that not passing the measure would lead to unions' "mistrust" of the county.

Samorajczyk, who has criticized Owens for not consulting the council on funding and land-use matters, took a similar line of attack against Atkisson.

"We're not just potted plants up here," she said.

The bonus program was agreed to through a "side letter," or a contract supplement. These letters are supposed to indicate that all agreed financial terms must be reviewed by the County Council. In this case, the caveat was not included. Employees, however, thought they were entitled to the year's worth of bonuses included in the agreement, even after the council scrapped the program.

Local 582 filed a grievance for the bonus payments through the county's Personnel Board, which ruled last year that it did not have the authority to compensate the 64 employees. The union then filed suit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. A hearing had been set for February, but union officials approached the county about a settlement.

"We are not looking at the past," Akers said after the vote. "We want to move on."

Some council members were confused as to why it took three years to reach a deal.

The county wanted to see the grievance process played out, Atkisson said.

"The events happened the way they did," he said. "I really don't have an answer for you."

In other news, County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle pulled a bill that would have required the registration of off-road vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, and mini-motorcycles.

The Linthicum Democrat did so in response to the House of Delegates passing a watered-down version of a bill that would require the licensing of two- and three-wheel vehicles, but not ATVs (as included in the original bill).

The House bill, also approved in the Senate, allows individual counties to choose whether to adopt the provisions. Beidle said she will consult with county lawyers before deciding whether to reintroduce the bill.

"I would like to," Beidle said. "There is such resistance from the administration. ... I won't bring it back without some certainty that this gets passed."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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