Friday, October 08, 1999

Council investigates pay imbalance

Officials were able to cash in comp time

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Council members say they're looking into whether some top city officials' next paychecks might grow fatter than they ought to be.

        To make up for a week's pay being withheld to implement a new payroll system, city workers were given several options. But the rules governing those options appear to be different for lower-level employees than for some higher-level employees, Vice Mayor Adolf Olivas said Thursday.

        “The perception undoubtedly has to be that there are the "haves' and the "have-nots,'” Mr. Olivas said. “I have spoken to a few of my colleagues and they share my disgust.”

        In the latest development in a dispute over payroll changes, some top city officials submitted forms “cashing in” compensatory time for which they may not have been entitled — an option that some lower-ranking workers weren't permitted to exercise, Mr. Olivas said.

        Lower-ranking employees said they instead had to convert vacation time, take out loans or accept an advance that they will have to repay.

        Forms show that some city officials turned in time spent attending City Council meetings and other functions that “ought to be considered part of the function of an administrator,” which do not merit additional pay or time off, Mr. Olivas said.

        “It's awfully poor timing for this to come to light the very week we have employees scrambling to make ends meet,” Mr. Olivas said. “This really is a very sad chapter in our city family history.”

        About 550 employees who normally would receive biweekly checks this week will have to wait until next week. That means three weeks will have elapsed since their last paycheck.

        The seemingly disparate application of the rules has had a devastating effect on employees' morale, said Councilman George McNally.

        “I came to work as a patrol officer in 1951, and I have never seen morale at this low of a level,” he said. “... Dedicated people are walking around grumbling and muttering. That has to change.”

        Council members are scrutinizing the compensatory time forms, and council has set a special meeting for Wednesday, when they intend to confront City Manager Stephen Sorrell with concerns about “the payroll debacle” and other prob lems, Mr. Olivas said.

        Mr. Sorrell was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment.

        Labor problems have plagued Hamilton in recent months. Disputes with city officials have led the police and firefighters' unions to pull out of Team Hamilton, a cooperative labor-management program established several years ago. David Eck contributed to this report.


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