Atascadero management violating personnel rules
June 7, 2011
By KAREN VELIE
Atascadero employees are breaking rules that limit the amount of vacation accrual leaving the city with a $553,000 unfunded liability, according to city finance documents.
City personnel rules, set in place to protect the city from financial liability, make department heads responsible for ensuring vacation policies are enforced. However, the greatest violators of the rules include city manager Wade McKinney and about a dozen executive city employees.
Out of 125 Atascadero employees, 25 have racked up more than a half million dollars in vacation accrual at a time the city reported a $1.9 million annual budget deficit.
While the personnel rules say the “city’s intent is to have employees take annual vacations,” it allows employees to accumulate up to two times their yearly vacation time. In violation of that policy, McKinney and his assistant Marcia Torgerson have accrued more than 1,500 hours, leaving the city responsible for a $144,679 payout, according to an informal audit performed by former mayor Mike Brennler.
Even though city personnel rules limit one recreation supervisor to 320 hours of vacation accrual, she currently has 1,945 hours with a payout of $67,674 upon retirement. McKinney leads the pack with $89,766 in vacation accrual
“These violations are an affront to the citizens of Atascadero as well as the other 100 city employees who abide by the rules,” Brennler said. “What example is being set by their managers and the city council who tolerate such abuse?”
After being confronted at a city council meeting by Brennler, McKinney said the city began allowing the accruals because, at the time, the city did not have the funds to pay vacation time.
Brennler argues that McKinney’s statement is deceptive and untrue. He noted that these improper accruals have been in place for more than a decade.
Several city officials either refused to comment or did not return requests for comment.
Cities set vacation accrual limits to stop employees from banking hours for years while their hourly wages increase along with the value of their accrued vacation time. In addition, management staff bank their vacation hours while taking time off using their administrative leave.
Facing staggering deficits, many U.S. cities are reviewing rules allowing for the banking of vacation hours. For example, the city council in Naperville, Ill., with a population of approximately 145,000 people, recently voted to phase out vacation time accrual.