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February 8, 2014

Shot Across Whose Bow?

by at 9:42 am.

I’ll get to the whole Council agenda later on, for BotW purposes, but meanwhile, I wanted to examine some of the new motions a bit in detail. There’s some doozies…

Let’s start with a couple of related ones from Elliott, shall we?

M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss ordinance pertaining to accumulated annual vacation and sick leave policy and refer matter to Personnel SC.
M. Elliott – Req. City Auditor provide report on costs of accumulated annual vacation and sick leave for employees who have resigned or have retired since January 1, 2014.

First of all, these motions are unlikely to be about any union position, since those have to be negotiated under terms contract when a contract with a union is up. That is negotiated by the City Manager as the taxpayer’s representative. This means this little discussion of Elliott’s would have to be about the few city positions governed by ordinance, not union contracts.

Positions like…say…City Manager, mayor’s aids, HR Director, or other department heads. Put this together with the second motion - and we can narrow down who Elliott is going after here. There’s several people who’ve resigned positions since Jan 1 of this year…the Manager himself, the former Mayor’s Aide, the head of DPD and assistant CM, the Auditor… I have my specific suspicions but suffice to say, I believe this is aimed at one or two individuals.

Now, a little history: the ordinance governing non-union positions in city government was already revised…and then subsequently, died in subcommittee. Meeting minutes from April 30, 2013:

Ordinance - Amend Ch. 56 (Personnel). In Council, Given 2nd Reading and hearing held. No Remonstrants. Hearing closed. Motion by C. Mendonca, seconded by C. Lorrey “To waive the full reading”. So voted. Manager Lynch gave a synopsis of the proposed ordinance which outlined sick pay, sick buy back, grid, vacation, ethics, code of conduct, pay, parking and travel expenses. Manager noted he corrected the position of the parking commissioner [editors note: supposed to be Parks not parking] to reflect a department head. C. Mercier noted sick pay option and vacation time for new employees. C. Mercier noted she could not vote in favor of the ordinance until she saw the proposed pay grid. Manager noted that the grid would have to be approved by Council every year. C. Mendonca commented on vacation time and personal days after Thanksgiving. Manager noted that as a cost savings measure City Hall would be closed the day after Thanksgiving. C. Mendonca requested some clarity on medical leave language. C. Martin outlined his understanding of medical leave language. C. Lorrey commented on parking language and also noted that organ donor pay should be included in the ordinance. Motion by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Kennedy “to refer matter to Personnel Subcommittee”. So voted. C. Elliott noted the correction for the Commissioner of Parks and commented there are some improvements in the ordinance but that it should be given more attention.

The proposed changes streamlined the ordinance, as well as cut back on sick leave, and eliminated sick-leave buyback for all new non-union employees. (The Sun wrote about the discussion here along with another item on the agenda.) It also put the Parks and Rec Director back as a dept head (something Mercier heartily approved).

Rita Mercier wanted the pay grid in front of her before approval. But..the ordinance as it currently stands (unrevised) does not have the pay grid in it, either, for the record. It is something the Council has to approve every year. So Mercier’s objection was full of it. (You know what “it” is.) She also complained that some employees got more vacation time under the revised ordinance - however, there are ordinance employees who get a very minimal amount of vacation and this was to correct that. (The union positions get plenty.)

So, to recap, this already was hashed out by the administration and presented to the Council last year, addressing this exact issue of sick leave policy and eliminating sick leave buyback, which was promptly sent by Elliott to the Personnel subcommittee, from where it never rose again. Elliott’s complaint was that the revision still gave too much to non-union employees (vis a vis step pay) and he felt “there are some improvements in the ordinance but that it should be given more attention”…but lo and behold, it was never given more attention.

Now, if Elliott seeks to revive these changes, with or without tweaks, I’m all for that. It is, apparently, a ball that was dropped by the previous Council. But he’s the one that sent it to die and never asked for it to come up again, last year.

However, the second motion he put on the agenda makes me very wary, because I think he is going after specific people with it, and I am not good with personal vendettas by weak mayors and a petty City Council, all of whom have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for open meeting laws, advice from their own council on lawsuits, and who have produced a mostly chaotic, inconsistent set of votes thus far. I think this is being used to embarrass someone Elliott doesn’t like, and I think he should be called out for it.

6 Responses to “Shot Across Whose Bow?”

  1. Lynne Says:

    As others have pointed out and as I also wanted to write in the post but felt it was complex enough, the CM and Auditor positions’ buybacks or vacation accrual are governed not by this ordinance but by the contracts the Council themselves negotiated. Which actually only strengthens my supposition that this is an attempt to embarrass certain former employees…but anyway.

  2. daughterofdoom Says:

    well, you know, Lynne, he IS the MAYOR, he must do very important mayor things

  3. C R Krieger Says:

    I am not clear on the “grid” issue.  When do the Happy Nine get to see it?  Before they vote, surely.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  4. Lynne Says:

    Yes, every year that grid would be presented to them and they would vote to approve or not. This is standard operating procedure.

  5. Lynne Says:

    (At least that’s my understanding.)

  6. Sd Says:

    Actuall, vacation payout (but not sick) is governed by state law:

    “Employers who choose to provide paid vacation to their employees must treat those payments like any other wages under M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148. Withholding vacation payments is the equivalent of withholding wages and, as such, is illegal. Employees must be paid for all earned vacation upon termination of employment.” ( from mass.gov)

    As for sick buyback, I don’t know of any Lowell employee hired after 2000 with a sick buyback right in their contract or any other hiring agreement.

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