Reed Facing Criticism Over Cash Payouts To Police Chief, Senior Officials
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is defending the big cash payouts given to senior officials in his administration for unused sick and vacation time, despite some city council members raising concerns the payments were improper.
Police chief George Turner, who makes an annual salary of about $240,000, received an extra $79,000 last year for nearly 700 hours of unused vacation time.
Councilwoman Felicia Moore says the city should not have allowed the extra money to go to Turner.
“We are governed by what we have on the books and in this instance that was violated,” said Moore.
She said city code allows unused vacation and sick days to be converted into cash only when an employee resigns, retires, or loses their job. Plus, she added, the city’s cap on carry-over vacation time is 360 hours, about half what Turner was given credit for.
Meanwhile, five other employees – including Reed Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor-Parks and Deputy Chief Financial Officer Gwen Smith - received payouts as high as $29,000, mostly for unused sick days and comp time. Three additional employees were extended loans totaling $12,000.
“I believe [the payouts] need to be refunded to the city and I believe the people that authorized it need to be disciplined,” said Moore.
Reed, however, said that’s not going to happen.
“I don’t buy this argument that what was done was illegal or improper,” said Reed.
He said city code allows for Atlanta's Human Resources Commissioner Yvonne Cowser Yancey and Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard to consider exemptions in cases of “hardship.”
“Two senior officials exercised their discretion because more than two of our employees were facing a genuine hardship and they had to come and explain what the need for that funding was and so I’m going to stand behind the decision of the commissioner and the CFO of the city of Atlanta,” said Reed
He added it’s the least the city can do.
“Increasingly because of the success that we’ve had as a city, more and more people are recruiting people who are on our team and trying to get them to take other jobs. So when folks are in the situation that we can help them out, I’m prepared to do that,” said Reed.
Moore, however, says she can't recall a precedent for such exemptions and believes the administration is giving preferential treatment to certain employees.
“It’s clear to me that they are making their own rules and ignoring the rules that are on the books,” said Moore.
She said she'll seek answers from the administration when the council returns from summer recess next week.