A former Pickerington police officer and city officials are at odds over unused sick pay.

A former Pickerington police officer and city officials are at odds over unused sick pay.

Last month, there was no shortage of smiles and superlatives at Pickerington City Hall as city officials and Chief Mike Taylor honored longtime Pickerington Police Cmdr. Steve Annetts, who left the force after more than 21 years to become chief of the Douglas, Wyo., police department.

Now the departure, which Annetts had described as “bittersweet,” has turned increasingly bitter.

The former officer and city officials currently are locked in a stalemate over more than $14,000 in unused sick leave payments.

Annetts said he believes he’s entitled to the money because he “retired” from the Pickerington Police Department.

City officials, however, maintain Annetts “resigned” from the force. They have said his service in Pickerington fell approximately three and a half years short of entitling him to the money, because an employee must serve 25 years in order to “retire” and receive the benefits via a retirement pension.

The disagreement has led Annetts to consult an attorney and he currently is weighing his legal options.

“If (my attorney) thinks I have a case, I’m going to go ahead and pursue my benefits, to which I’m fully entitled,” Annetts said. “I didn’t want to do this. I had a good time working with the city of Pickerington, but they need to do what’s right.”

According to a letter from Mark Lucas, president of Clemans-Nelson Associates Inc., a Dublin-based labor relations consultant firm that advises the city, Annetts doesn’t qualify to cash in the unused sick leave under Pickerington’s employee policy.

The firm maintains Annetts only would qualify for compensation “upon retirement from the city.”

“Again, that definition says ‘service or disability retirement,’ not ‘qualifying for service or disability retirement,’” Lucas said in a Sept. 30 letter to the city. “So, my advice is to not pay Mr. Annetts any sick leave cash-in under Policy 5.05(K), because he has not demonstrated that he retired from employment with the city.”

On Oct. 18, Pickerington City Councilman Brian Wisniewski unsuccessfully proposed that council approve the payments to Annetts.

“If it was a developer that was coming in and promised to build a building in 10 years, we’d give them a (tax-increment financing incentive) and something else,” Wisniewski said.

Council rejected the proposal by a 2-5 vote. Wisniewski and council Vice President Tony Barletta were the only members to support the measure.

Opponents cited the Clemans-Nelson opinion and said swaying from city employee policy would set a bad precedent for future employment and retirement matters.

“We’ve also contributed to his retirement fund each and every year ... which is standing policy,” council president Brian Sauer said. “On behalf of every employee that works for the city, we do make substantial contributions to retirement (funds).

“... Decisions we make as a council will have implications.”

As council was considering Wisniewski’s proposal, city manager Bill Vance said council could approve a “bonus” or “reward for service” to Annetts in the amount he was seeking. But he cautioned members against approving a buyout for the unused sick leave since Annetts didn’t meet the retirement qualification.

“Council could absolutely do a buyout,” Vance said. “Just call it something else. The guidelines associated with our (human resource) policies do not support the request as it currently stands.”

Annetts countered by saying Pickerington’s employment guidelines don’t provide a clear explanation for the retirement process.

“I wanted to try to get this worked out,” he said. “Legal action is not good for either of us.

“It’s just a shame I have to do this.”