October 6, 2013 by wcobserver
West Fork City Council at the September 10, 2013 meeting approved a $12,000 transfer from the West Fork Street Department savings account to the street operations account.. This will be used to pay comptime to an employee who had accumulated 700 hours of comptime and has resigned from the City.
According to Tom Kieklak, City Attorney, who cited federal rules which are clear, “…Nobody in this country can work greater than 40 hours a week without getting paid time and a half. Even if you call it comptime you still have to pay the time and half.” If employees are not compensated appropriately it’s like getting the work done without paying for the work.
Michael “Butch” Bartholomew, Streets and Utilities Superintendent said, “The reason it’s been allowed to accumulate, it’s never been a problem before…people used it for extended illness or a family emergency.”
Councilman Mike Nelson commented “…This could get pretty expensive. We need a policy. You just have to make sure they get some time off.”
Mr. Kieklak expanded on this statement saying that he has had some clients lose their business over this. He also explained that if it is brought to litigation, the government has been known to award 2-3 times the amount of money owed to the workers.
Mr. Bartholomew said at one point the “Employees either need to cut their times down or we need to get prepared to pay them also.”
A discussion was held among the council and Mr. Bartholomew about how to handle the comptime that is owed now, as well as controlling it in the future. Mr. Bartholomew said, “Some of them can take Monday and Tuesday off, but they are dedicated. They like their jobs and they won’t stay home. You can say you need to stay home, you need to use this comp time and they say, ‘we’d rather come to work,’ so we just have to force them.”
Councilman Charlie Rossetti asked, “We are going to pay what we have documented then that’s going to be the end of it?”
Councilman Sarah Setzer interjected. “But do we have other people who have documented time owed?” To which Mr. Bartholomew responded, “They’ll just have to take more time off.”
Throughout the meeting various numbers regarding comptime were proffered. Another employee may have at least 700 hours and two others with 240 hours.
Councilman Bill Sergeant reported that he talked to some of the employees who told him they “have no respect for comp time…they want to be paid for overtime.” And referring to some employees who did not want to come out when called, for example, a water main break, he elaborated, “Their concept is, ‘it’s comptime that I will never get,’ They have no positive reason that they should come out because they are going to get cheated out of it.”
At one point Mr. Bartholomew also offered this comment, “As far as I know in the last 40 years we’ve never paid any city employee any over time other than, now the Police Department, the Fire Department, I don’t know about. But in the utilities we’ve never and no one ever expected it. They knew what the job was.”
Councilman Nelson said, “That’s the key to it. Those days are gone. Having people do things they use to do, they’re not going to do any more.”
“That’s right. It’s a different work ethic now than what it has been,” replied Mr. Bartholomew.
“Well I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that,” responded Councilman Nelson.
Councilman Anita Lowry asked if the employees received standby pay, for example on the weekends.
Ms. Kristie Drymon who is City Treasurer and Office Manager for the Water and Wastewater Commission, answered, “Our city guys on a regular weekend when nothing extra happens get two hours a day, because they come down and check the pumps…”
The exact amount owed was not given, although Mr. Bartholomew reports that “It’s all documented.” Documentation was not provided at this meeting. The outcome was that the Council approved the transfer of $12,000 and the Mayor tasked Mr. Bartholomew with developing a policy for resolving the current comptime issue and for managing overtime in the future.
Ms. Drymon asked for a clarification of the motion, “I just want to be specific. We are going to take from the street savings and put into street operations.”
Mr. Bartholomew. “Yes. It’s all street money because that’s the department he [employee who resigned] worked for.”
It was unclear from the information presented by Mr. Bartholomew at the council meeting the extent to which street employees, paid from city funds, are doing water department work.
The West Fork city government is structured in such a way that the water and wastewater department is outside the control of the mayor and council, and required by law to derive its revenue from operations, not tax funds. The street department is a department of the city and relies on funds generated from taxes. The employee who resigned was listed as a street department employee. Mr. Bartholomew is paid by Water and Wastewater Commission and is accountable to them. His work in the role of Street Department Head is often described as “volunteer.”
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