Woodland Clerk-Treasurer Mari Ripp could spend a quarter of 2013 on vacation, and the City Council isn’t pleased about the way she accumulated so much time off.
However, on a 4-3 vote, the council earlier this week rejected a proposal to buy out 250 hours of Ripp’s unused vacation time — about six weeks — for about $10,000.
So Ripp will be eligible to use those hours, plus the vacation owing her in 2013 — about three months’ total time off.
The situation arose after two previous mayors allowed Ripp and other salaried department heads to get an hour off work for every hour of overtime. The flex time arrangement allowed her to take time off without needing to use her regular vacation time.
Typically, salaried employees aren’t eligible for overtime, and Woodland department directors already get 96 hours of administrative leave a year to compensate for the additional time they spend in night meetings.
Council members were miffed to learn about the flex time arrangement, which was agreed to without council authorization.
Though flex time also was allowed for the police chief, public works director and other department heads, none has accumulated the large amount of vacation of time Ripp has amassed.
“All this vacation is accruing, and you’re not having to use it because you’re using this flex time. You’re double-dipping,” Councilman Benjamin Fredricks said of the arrangement.
Ripp didn’t return calls for comment Wednesday.
Councilwoman Susan Humbyrd said Ripp wasn’t directly to blame for the problem. “I’m sorry this has come up where she’s caught in the middle,” she said. “It’s not Mari, it’s the flex time.”
Grover Laseke, who became full time mayor this summer, put an end to flex time for salaried workers.
“Characterizing that she (Ripp) had done something inappropriate or wrong is off base,” Laseke told the council. “You’ve got a long standing employee with an exemplary record.”
Humbyrd, Fredricks and council members J.J. Burke and Marilee McCall opposed a proposal to buy out Ripp’s vacation time. Councilmen Scott Perry, Al Swindell and Marshal Allen voted to pay Ripp.
Laseke said the city’s Human Resources Committee is reviewing the matter and is looking for ways to cap vacation hours.