Mohave County leaders find time off policy baffling

Proposal would cut back on amount of stockpiled hours

KINGMAN - Seeking to address staffing shortages among Mohave County employees, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to accept a draft of personnel policies and procedures that would reduce the amount of paid time off workers can accrue, carry over and cash out.

The new policies will be reviewed and placed on the June 15 board meeting agenda for discussion, with any proposed revisions to be compiled by Human Resources.

The board's main issue is with the enormous amount of hours of paid time off that employees were carrying over and eventually cashing out upon separation.

It left offices short-handed and caused a backup in work.

Supervisor Jean Bishop cited an extreme case of a lieutenant with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office who took three years of paid time off prior to his retirement date.

The proposal would change accrual of paid time off for full-time employees hired after July 1 to 7.69 hours a pay period, down from 8 hours a pay period. PTO for employees with 15 years of service or more would be reduced to 10 hours a pay period, down from 12 hours.

Employees would only be able to carry over 600 hours of PTO as of June 30, 2016, and 400 hours as of June 30, 2017. Currently they can carry over 900 hours.

Cash-out of unused PTO hours upon separation or retirement would be capped at 400 hours as of July 1, 2016, and 250 hours as of July 1, 2017.

Sixteen-year county employee Beth Cordes said it's wrong for the board to reduce PTO hours for cash-out.

"Employees did nothing to warrant these changes," she said during the public comment period. "Please don't write this off as we're lucky to have a job. You're lucky to have us."

Ken Cunningham, human resources director, said the revised merit policy combines suggestions from supervisors and department heads, and brings all the rules under one document.

Drafts of the procedures have been posted on the department's home page for all employees to read, he said.

"We have no intention to hide anything," Cunningham said. "This has been discussed at management meetings. I believe it has been disseminated to the public."

Supervisor Hildy Angius said she'd heard about excessive PTO three years ago, but did not realize the gravity of it. The merit rules were revised with employees and taxpayers in mind, she said.

"The whole system is ridiculous the way government is run and the way people are paid and get their benefits," Angius said. "I would hope one day government is run like a business and based on merit."

In other action at last week's meeting:

• The board voted 3-2 against establishing a 1.75-mile section of Brooks Boulevard in the Valle Vista area as a county highway.

Vicki Hoag, representing Cella Wines, said paving the road would help bring tourists to Kingman's fledgling wineries and increase property values in the area. Mohave County could become a draw for winery tourism like Temecula Valley in California.

Steve Latoski, public works director, said asphalt millings are not currently available through the Arizona Department of Transportation. The road could be approved based on availability of millings in the future, but the timeline for that is unknown, he said.

A one-week traffic count in March did show that traffic on Brooks Boulevard increased to 120 vehicles a day on weekends, compared with 90 a day during the week, Latoski noted.

• The board continued an item on the revised anti-littering ordinance for the purpose of removing the five-day discretionary or notice period. The board has yet to receive information requested about prosecution of litter generators and how many people were handled at that time.

• The board agreed to establish a trial and settlement budget in the amount of $150,000 for legal services in the Mineral Park bankruptcy case. The county is owed about $15 million in property taxes by Mineral Park.

County Administrator Mike Hendrix said the agreement with Duane Morris law firm is for payment on a contingency fee basis, plus travel and other expenses.