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Use-it-or-lose-it provision necessary for public sector



Published: Tue, March 1, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

While Republicans in state gov- ernment and Ohio’s public employees remain locked in a bitter battle over collective bargaining, there’s a way for all Ohioans to join in: The GOP majority in the General Assembly should amend the bill now before the Senate to include the elimination of accrued vacation and sick days.

The amendment would apply to public entities at every level. The Ohio Revised Code supersedes local laws.

The use-it-or-lose-it provision would bring public employees in line with those in the private sector. The result: An end to the ridiculously high severance payments that individuals on government payrolls pocket on their way to tapping their ridiculously high taxpayer-supported pensions and health-care plans.

Consider this blood curdling fact: In the last seven months, three area public employees walked away with $100,000-plus severance packages.

It began with Dr. David Sweet, the former president of Youngstown State University, who left with $100,596.

The sweet deal for the former YSU president reflected the 400 hours of sick leave he said he did not take during his 10-year tenure, and the 267.57 hours of unused vacation time. The hourly rate used to calculate his severance was $150.69.

Just as the shock of that separation payment was wearing off, taxpayers were treated to the ultimate — it seemed at the time — in insult-to-injury: Dr. Wendy Webb, former superintendent of the Youngstown City School District, pocketed $111,153. The payment was for 285 days of sick leave she said she did not take, 56 personal days and 72 vacation days she had piled up over her public career of more than 30 years.

The insult lies in the fact that during her six-plus years as superintendent of Youngstown schools, the district was in state-mandated fiscal and academic emergency. It is the worst school district in Ohio.

Yet, Webb was rewarded for her performance — as spelled out in the contract negotiated with the board of education. That’s an injury to the taxpayers.

And now comes Dr. Kathryn Hellweg, former superintendent of Warren city schools.

Paid not to work

When Hellweg left her job Monday after about six years, she was given a $101,000 separation check. If that isn’t enough for you, private sector taxpayers, to scream, “We’re mad as hell as won’t take it anymore,” consider this indignity:

Hellweg’s contract was to expire in July, which means she walked away with the six-figure check for not working.

Why would the board of education agree to reward her resignation and retirement? Why not fire her if members believed she was not doing her job, so she would have been forced to defend her tenure?

Or, if Hellweg’s performance as superintendent did not justify getting rid of her immediately, why not insist that she serve out her contract?

The board shelled out $55,000 to buy out the last five months of her contract, and gave her another $46,000 in separation pay and unused vacation.

Enough’s enough.

We call on the Republican majority in the Ohio House and Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to strike a blow for private sector taxpayers by imposing a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision for annual vacation and sick time for all public employees.


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