Glendora Mayor Ken Herman made an interesting appeal to the audience at Tuesday’s council meeting in defending City Manager Chris Jeffers’ 2007 cash out of $484,000 of unused leave time when he left the same post in Monterey Park.
Herman was critical of the tone of the debate (and, I assume, the reporting of said actions) that Jeffers had done something wrong (he said something about extorting, which has never been said in this paper). In addition, Herman has often defended Jeffers actions by saying he benefited from policy not created by him.
At the same time, he often doesn’t talk about the fact that Jeffers negotiated and helped write his contract that allowed him to acrrue vacation time at a rate of one day off every week during his final year of employment, according to documents and officials.
In Jeffers defense, Herman said Tuesday that “there is nobody in this room that wouldn’t have done the same thing. He took what was rightfully his.”
It isn’t an uncommon argument to make when someone is either defending an action taken by themselves or someone else. Appeal to people’s emotions and have them reevaluate themselves. If I would have done it, one might think, I shouldn’t judge someone who did.
I don’t think the objection by most people is that Jeffers did something illegal (some might, and there have been allusions to Bell. I will leave that to others to justify those positions), but I think the major complaint comes in the form of distrust in those stewards of the community whom we have bestowed the responsibility of leading our cities and overseeing our bank accounts.
Did Jeffers earn (by not taking it) many days of vacation over his years of employment and merely followed city policy in cashing out those left over days? Yes. Should he be exonerated because he was, in a sense, just following the rules?
The problem is, I suspect, from the community is that when there is a public in place that clearly abuses public funds, they expect those at the top to correct it, not take advantage of it. Jeffers, as the city manager, and the council members above him, are – in the eyes of the public – there to make sure such policies don’t exist, and if they do, find them and correct them. Jeffers didn’t do that in Monterey Park (while, some argue, he did correct that policy in Glendora) and that is where the distrust is found.
With that said, I think Herman has a point. We live in a society where money is good, making a living is great, and being rich is admired. Everyone hopes to make more money.
If you had the opportunity to cash your vacation time at work and you accrued a month or more of that time a year, would you have done the same?