Can Huron County deputies cash in sick time?

NORWALK Public employees in Ohio can only officially retire once. Huron County Sherif
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Public employees in Ohio can only officially retire once.

Huron County Sheriff's jail administrator Virgil Valentine and chief deputy Bob Sutherland officially retired in 2001, even though both men were rehired within 24 hours of resigning.

Valentine and Sutherland then continued working for the Sheriff's office until the beginning of this year, when both men resigned again, according to the Huron County Auditor's office.

County officials are scrambling to figure out how much money the employees are owed for their unused sick and vacation time.

According to the sheriff's civil service department, Sutherland is seeking about $3,840 and Valentine is seeking about $25,100.

It's not clear if either retiree will receive the money they are seeking.

Sick time is earned by public employees at a static rate, said Daivia Kasper, Huron County assistant prosecutor.

When employees retire, they can choose to cash out their sick leave for 25 percent of the time they accrued, up to 45 days worth of leave, Kasper said.

Employees can also choose to transfer their sick day balance to their next job in public service.

"Upon retirement you have an option to be paid out a percentage, or you may carry it over to use it," Kasper said.

One condition of carrying sick leave over is that it can only be used from that point on. It can not be turned into greenbacks if it's carried over.

When Valentine and Sutherland resigned in 2001, neither chose to convert their sick leave into cash, Kasper said.

One of the two used his sick leave. The other still has sick leave, even though he can no longer cash it out. He'll lose it unless he is hired to another public service position.

The rules about vacation leave are different.

Ohio Revised Code states that vacation days are earned on a sliding scale, with employees receiving larger amounts of time off the longer they are employed with a public agency.

Valentine was originally hired to the Sheriff's office in January 1989. Sutherland was first hired in January 1975.

When they quit in 2001, they were earning vacation leave at a rate of about four to five weeks a year.

But the question puzzling Kasper is whether the men should still have earned vacation days at that same rate when they were rehired.

Ohio Revised Code says public employees who are rehired to a public agency must start over from scratch, earning about two weeks of vacation annually to start.

But Huron County bylaws may diverge on this point.

Kasper said her office has not yet issued a legal opinion about the amount of vacation leave owed to Sutherland and Valentine.

"It appears the county's personnel policy may be more generous. We're trying to nail down what we can best advise to the auditor and sheriff about what we believe is appropriate," Kasper said.