Would you take $484,000 in unused leave time given the opportunity?

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?

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Mole hill or (cash) mountain? How serious is the news of Monterey Park executives cashing out $100,000s in leave time?


Is vacation time accrued the same as money earned?

That may be the question of the hour after we learned that Monterey Park’s former City Manager and Police Chief each pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in saved leave time when each left their positions.

Most recently, it was former City Manager and current Glendora top executive Chris Jeffers who took nearly half a million in saved leave time before leaving Monterey Park in 2007.

Some have argued (via the comments section) that this is a mole hill being made into a mountain (a Scrooge McDuck mountain of coin, am I right?!).

There is merit to the argument that if a person doesn’t take their vacation time, they should be allowed to cash it in. They didn’t use it, instead worked and are entitled to the value of that benefit.

But those arguing that in this circumstance may be missing a vital point: Are city executives being given an exceeding large amount of leave time? And is that benefit a backhanded way of giving them additional pay when they are given more leave time then they will ever use?

Racking up a day of vacation each week of employment, as Jeffers was doing in his final year at Monterey Park, and having executives able to earn three months of time off a year seems excessive. Should city department directors, working on the public’s dime, be allowed to take three months off in a year? If the answer is no (as I assume most citizens would agree) then why give them the opportunity?

Finally, Jeffers’ current employer didn’t do themselves any favors in the story about their city manager’s former job.

Two council members didn’t know what Jeffers’ pay was when asked. Mayor Ken Herman seemed to be defending Jeffers’ actions in Monterey Park.

Councilman Terry Kent, in an e-mail to this newspaper, was upset at the way he was portrayed in the paper. Kent was at a wedding out of state and felt that should have been included in the story when describing why he couldn’t recite Jeffers’ salary.

The real question for the council is this: With this knowledge, what will they do?

The council, in the past, has stood by their city manager and often follow his suggestions. But will this force them to examine their city executive contracts for leave time? Or will they follow what Herman seemed to imply in the story that these benefits packages are comparable to other cities and Glendora must offer them to remain competitive in hiring top talent?

Does “because everybody else is doing it” make it right? Or does that mean there is a widespread problem? Answering that is best left to voters.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune