High state worker payments cost millions

March 1, 2010

A new investigation reveals that California state employees have routinely been allowed to amass unused vacation time, enabling hundreds of workers to retire with payouts of over $100,000. [Ventura County Star]

In one particular case, a state employee was able to combine vacation and compensatory time to walk away with more than $800,000.

The California Watch investigation found that during the last four years, nearly 500 government workers earned six-figure incomes, mostly for unused vacations. Sacramento spent $486 million from 2006 to mid-2009 to pay more than 52,000 employees for time-off benefits.

The situation continues, critics say, despite rules designed to limit how much vacation time state workers can accumulate. Employees are typically allowed to bank up to 80 days of unused vacation days, but supervisors often let them exceed that limit.

In one case, James C. Tudor, Jr., the former president of the State Compensation Insurance Fund, cashed out six times more vacation time than regulations allow, taking home more than $550,000 after he was fired in 2007.

Most state employees build up vacation and annual leave at the rate of 7 to 20 hours a month.

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Morro Bay had a harbor patrolman who suffered a stroke and could no longer work. He burned through a year’s worth of accrued vacation and sick time before officially retiring. He pulled his entire salary for that year because he’d never taken a vacation or apparently never been sick in 30+ years working for the city.