Licking County News

Pataskala City Council

Hurst: Sick-day transfer policy conflicts with state law

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Law Director Rufus Hurst last week told Pataskala City Council that the city's employee handbook should be amended to follow state guidelines for sick leave carryover.

He said the handbook currently denies the transfer of accrued sick leave altogether, and a May 20 City Council motion allowing a new employee to carry over only a portion of his sick leave had to be reconsidered.

According to Chapter 13 of Pataskala's employee handbook, "Upon a new employee being hired by the city, the city will not accept unused sick leave balances from any other employer, which includes state government, local government or corporation."

However, Section 124.38 of the Ohio Revised Code states, "An employee who transfers from one public agency to another shall be credited with the unused balance of the employee's accumulated sick leave up to the maximum of the sick leave accumulation permitted in the public agency to which the employee transfers."

On May 20, City Council agreed to waive Chapter 13 of the employee handbook and allow the new planning director, Eric Fischer, to retain 200 of the 700 sick leave hours he accrued while working as assistant director and development planner for Powell.

Hurst said City Council has to repeal Chapter 13 because it violates state law. City Council cannot accept only a portion of an employee's transferred accrued sick leave, per state law, if the city's laws allow a higher amount.

Pataskala currently allows employees to accrue up to 800 hours of sick leave.

If City Council members want to consider limiting the city's maximum hours of sick leave carryover permitted, that could be considered when Chapter 13 is amended to match the state law, he said.

Hurst was absent from the May 20 meeting but sent City Council members an email on the issue before the meeting.

"As I was getting ready to leave town, Tim (Boland, city administrator) asked for an email saying here's the motion that they need to pass," Hurst said. "For some reason there was confusion with council not understanding or thinking that the number of hours was flexible, or a negotiation point or something that they had control over.

"Council was not trying to avoid or ignore what I was saying. I think they didn't understand that the hours were set."

At Hurst's request, City Council passed a motion June 3 that repealed the May 20 motion and waives Chapter 13 of the handbook to allow Fischer to retain all 700 hours of his sick leave carryover.

City Council voted 5-1 in favor of the motion, with Bernard Brush cast the dissenting vote and Merissa McKinstry absent from the meeting.

Hurst said he plans to have a draft of legislation to change Chapter 13 of the employee handbook at the next regular City Council meeting this month.

Hurst said the legislation would be introduced as an ordinance. He said the handbook must be changed by an ordinance because it was adopted as an ordinance.

Fischer will earn $70,378 in annual salary, said Finance Director James Nicholson. The value of his benefits package was not immediately available.

Fischer is expected to start June 10.

The city received 52 applications for the position and interviewed eight candidates before choosing Fischer to replace Dianne Harris.

Harris who retired in May, was paid $79,211 in salary and an estimated $34,710 in benefits annually, Nicholson said.

In other business June 3, Pataskala City Council:

* Approved a resolution to reimburse $185,000 to the police fund for repairs to the Pataskala Division of Police building's roof, soffit, fascia, downspouts and gutters either through the issuance of debt or from the general fund. The resolution was amended to include the potential payment from the general fund and was approved 6-0.

* Tabled a motion by Bryan Lenzo to reinstate original plans for the development of two ball fields at the Thomas J. Evans Foundation Park.

City Council on May 20 approved a motion asking the parks and recreation advisory board to build the western field first with financial support of the Central Ohio Clippers youth baseball league and then report to City Council before building the other field, again with financial help from the Central Ohio Clippers.

Lenzo's motion was tabled in a 3-3 vote, with Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher breaking the tie in favor of tabling.

Councilman Mike Fox suggested tabling Lenzo's motion since McKinstry was absent and she had initiated the May 20 action.

The city also has not yet heard back from the Thomas J. Evans Foundation on the suggested improvements. The city leases the park from the foundation, which must approve any plans for development.

* Asked Hurst to review City Council procedures related to members introducing legislation if they have voted against similar legislation previously.

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