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After payout, Kanawha officials worried about leave time

After one recent retirement cost Kanawha County $66,000 for the employee's unused annual leave time, county officials want to know how many more of Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants' employees have saved up significant amounts of leave time.

County Commissioner Dave Hardy said the subject came up after the county had to pay out $66,000 in unused leave time for assistant prosecutor Don Morris, who is retiring this month.

Hardy said he had no doubt that Morris earned the annual leave or that the county owes the money.

"I think the world of Don Morris," Hardy said. "I am not being critical of Don Morris in any way."

But he said county officials need to know how many more employees in the prosecuting attorney's office have large amounts of unused annual leave. He said the County Commission needs the information to help in budgeting for when employees leave or are fired.

"If it's a liability, then we need to know how high it is," Hardy said.

County officials have been burned on unused leave time from the prosecutor's office before. When former prosecuting attorney Bill Forbes left office in 2000, three assistant prosecutors also left, collecting almost $60,000 for their unused leave time.

In 2003, former prosecuting attorney Mike Clifford nearly doubled the amount of leave time employees could save.

Within the past two years, Plants changed his leave policy so that employees could accrue no more than 20 annual leave days. The new policy went into effect in January.

"It's basically a use-it-or-lose-it proposition," he said.

Under the new policy, no employee in the prosecutor's office is allowed to carry over more than 20 annual leave days from year to year. But Plants said he can't dock any employee who had leftover annual leave prior to the adoption of the new policy.

"This [time] was accumulated in the past, and by law they're entitled to it," Plants said. "What's been done in the past has been done, and I can't change it.

"I didn't create that policy," he said. "I created a policy to fix it."

Hardy and County Commissioners Kent Carper and Hoppy Shores have been worried about employees banking leave time for a long time. But Carper said county officials were bound by past employee policies.

"[Morris] isn't getting anything that the policy at the time didn't allow," Carper said. "He is a fine and distinguished career prosecutor."

County Manager Jennifer Sayre has asked for a list of all employees in the prosecutor's office with more than 20 unused annual leave days.

Plants said he has 42 employees. Of those, 22 have more than 20 days of unused leave time, and can't accrue any more.

Assistant prosecutor Steve Revercomb has the most, with 257 unused leave days. Assistant prosecutor Michelle Drummond has 217, and Morris had 157.

All have been with the prosecutor's office for years, long before the new policy went into effect. Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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