Yes, you read that headline correctly.
Seventeen employees in the Register of Deeds office got to stay home from work last February during a snow storm. Their boss, Drew Reisinger, made the decision despite not having the authority to do so.
The Tribune had the story of Eddie Harwood, who complained that all the other County employees had to go to work, while the Register of Deeds office was closed.
And so Tuesday night, the Buncombe County Commissioners decided to make it right ... by giving every single other County employee 13 hours of comp time off.
I'm not sure you can find a better example of government and managerial incompetence.
There was no public discussion of the plan. WLOS found the item in the budget adopted by 5-2 by Commissioners.
The extra day is going to cost taxpayers between $400,000-$600,000 to cover the hourly pay for all employees who had to report for 13-hours of work on February 12th and 13th.
Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger did not require his 17 full-time, one part-time staffer, to come to the office for what was essentially a day and half during what had been declared a snow emergency across much of western North Carolina.
However, all other departments remained open, as per Buncombe County policy.
David Gantt, Buncombe County Comm. Chair, "I understand they did close, it was a heavy snow, and a misunderstanding, but we're going to treat everybody the same, we believe everybody has the same rights and the same obligations and so we felt this was the easiest way to handle this."
This is farce.
The County does NOT treat all people the same. Do all County employees earn the same salary? Do they get the same days off? Same lunch hours? Do hourly workers have the same flexibility in scheduling as salaried employees?
Further, the easiest way to handle this would've been to tell the 17 employees in the Register of Deeds that they benefited from their boss' mess-up. And that's it. That would also be the cheapest way.
But 1,400 employees are not entitled to a day and half off from work merely because 17 other people got an unauthorized day off.
Why do taxpayers have to foot the bill for Commissioners' concept of fairness?
Another way to handle it - have the 17 RoD employees make up the time some time in the next fiscal year. Take a sick day, personal day, or vacation day from these employees.
Another question not addressed is whether any of the 1,400 workers got any of those snow days off, too. We know about the Register of Deeds office. But were other workers unable to make it to work due to the snow? Did any supervisor tell an employees, "It's ok, Bill. Just stay home today. Don't risk the drive in."
It seems giving those employees the extra comp time would be UNFAIR to the others, right. And the County Commissioners are all about fairness on this issue, right?
The politics of comp time
This plan was passed as part of the $368 million County budget. It was adopted by a 5-2 vote. All four Democrats supported it, along with Republican David King.
Reisinger, a Democratic Party activist, faced criticism upon his appointment by the local party for having no management experience. He beat out a career employee from the Register of Deeds office in a party-only election.
Reisinger later won in the general election.
Republicans Joe Belcher and Mike Fryar voted against the budget - but did not mention this issue during the debate.
Fryar called into the show yesterday and said he had so many other criticisms of the budget that he simply didn't have time to get to this line item. He also said the Register of Deeds is a bonded elected official, and the County could sue him to recoup the costs of the comp day.
From the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Reisinger did not return telephone calls from the Citizen-Times Wednesday, but said in a statement that his staff used vacation time when his office was closed.
“We chose to close the office based on safety concerns related to the inclement weather,” the statement says. “I regret any confusion this matter has caused the county manager, the commissioners, and the public.”
So, these employees used vacation time?
How does this make the Commissioners' actions "fair" and "equal?"
Greene said she sent emails in January and February to remind officials of county policy. It allows workers to take vacation time or go without pay if they do not want to come in to work during bad weather, but says someone must be there to keep the doors open.
She said Reisinger’s closing meant his employees could not have worked and that difference resulted in Tuesday’s action.
Nicely done, Commissioners.
It appears these 17 people lost vacation time AND 1,400 other workers are getting extra paid time off.
I'm not sure this could've been handled any worse.