Lake County Council decries request for $136K in vacation pay

A request from the Lake County prosecutor’s office to pay deputy prosecutors approximately $136,000 for banked vacation time was met with opposition from much of the Lake County Council.

Bob Neumair, administrative supervisor for the Lake County prosecutor’s office, appeared during the Thursday council workshop to request funds be transferred to make the payment on the employee’s last paycheck of the year.

The department has the money to pay the employees.

“There is a surplus of funds We are not asking for any new money,” he said.

Neumair said the amount is so high because a number of employees have built up unused vacation time over a long period of years. Many deputy prosecutors are not able to take vacation time because of their court schedules. It is difficult for an attorney to leave in the middle of a case.

One employee alone had more than 1,600 hours of vacation time accrued, Neumair said. That employee agreed to receive payment for half the amount, 860 hours.

Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, said paying those employees for years of accrued vacation time would violate county ordinance which says if vacation time is not used by a certain time it is forfeited.

Council Attorney Thomas O’Donnell confirmed there is a county ordinance that prohibits banking vacation time. According to the ordinance the vacation time must be used by the end of the year. Only one week of unused vacation time may be rolled into the next year. That week then must be used by April 1 or it will be lost. The ordinance has been on the books for at least a decade.

“You have to use it or lose it,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said the total amount of vacation time the prosecutors are seeking to pay totals $136,000. The employee with

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‘Ship has sailed’ on vacation pay for prosecutor’s office

Prosecutor’s office employees expecting a payout for years of unused vacation time will be getting the pay in their Monday checks.

The Lake County Council Tuesday made no public mention of the payouts, which had not been on the agenda but came up Thursday during a study session. At the time council members balked that county ordinance prohibits the rollover of more than one week of vacation time into the next year once they learned the prosecutor’s office intended to pay out about $136,000 in unused time to 13 employees.

One employee, who had more than 1,700 hours in banked vacation time, agreed to take a pay out for 860 of those hours and is slated to receive $44,000, according to officials.

According to the ordinance, any vacation time not used by the end of the year is forfeited. Employees may roll over one week of time, but must use it by April 1 or lose it.

Council Attorney Thomas O’Donnell Tuesday after the regular council meeting said by the time the council and attorneys became aware of the payments Thursday during the workshop, “the ship had sailed.”

“You would have had to stop payroll for 2,000 employees,” O’Donnell said. The ACHs for direct deposit already were transmitted to the bank. There was no way to cancel just the 13 employees, so all payroll would had to have been canceled, he said. Due to the time of year, the cancellation also would have impacted employee W-2s. He said the auditor made an executive decision to move the checks through the system.

“The detriment to the 2,000 didn’t justify the $136,000,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said Prosecutor Bernie Carter wanted to withdraw the payments after the council raised concerns Thursday, but it was already too late.

Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart,

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