Government, Latest News, Preston County

Commission discusses deputies’ vacation, sick days

KINGWOOD —  The Preston Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday to further discuss whether to allow deputy sheriffs to convert unused vacation days to sick days, which in turn can be used toward retirement.

 The discussion began at last week’s commission meeting and continued this week. After a lengthy discussion Tuesday, Commissioner Dave Price said it was apparent no decision could be reached then.

  Last week Capt. T.N. Ticnell, who does scheduling for the sheriff’s office, and secretary Melissa Hardy said because of unfilled positions and the workload, deputies aren’t able to use their vacation days  by Dec. 30, as required in policy.

 Deputies must use their days in the calendar year. Civilian county workers use their vacation days based on the fiscal year, in this instance June 30, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

The deputies want to convert the unused vacation days to sick leave, which can be counted toward their years of longevity on the job, when they retire.

 This year all county employees were entitled to 16 paid holidays. Vacation and sick days are earned at different rates by different employees, based on when they were hired and whether they are Civil Service.  

On Tuesday County Clerk Linda Huggins said she talked with the State Consolidated Public Retirement Board, which indicated such a move must be set in county policy. And converted days should be documented, she was told.

 County Administrator Kathy Mace said deputies are Civil Service and fall under a different retirement system. And not all county employees have the option of converting sick days to longevity. 

“It’s about equity and who you can attract,” Mace said, and more information is needed about the law affecting deputies.

 Commissioner Don Smith said he understood  deputies were essentially saying employees are being penalized by the open slots not being filled.

In August 2019, according to county records and previous news reports, commissioners agreed to allow deputies to convert up to 10 vacation and compensatory days not used by Dec. 31, 2019,  to sick days.

 Hardy said Tuesday it was 12 days.

“Maybe that was a mistake,” Price said of the 2019 action. At the time commissioners thought it was a one-time fix, he said.

Commission President Samantha Stone said because it became an issue two years in a row, further discussion is warranted. She said she was inclined to make an exception again so  there is time to develop a policy before this happens again.

Sheriff-elect P.A. Pritt noted the window of time to take the days is narrowing.

“If they need to be off, I guess we’ll figure that out,” Pritt said.

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