July 27, 2010

Attorney says council can't block time off for workers

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's plan to grant thousands of government employees extra time off next year doesn't require further approval, according to an opinion from the jurisdiction's top lawyer. In a letter obtained by The Washington Examiner, acting County Attorney Marc Hansen writes, "We are not aware that granting the leave would be contrary to any appropriation or budget resolution or contrary to an existing law. Therefore, this provision of the agreement may be implemented by the executive branch without any affirmative act by the council being necessary."

Leggett has signed off on an arrangement granting general government employees and police officers 26 hours more in paid leave next year. Firefighters would receive an extra 48 hours away from the office. Council members -- and their attorneys -- argue that lost productivity and a backlog of leave time would cost the county millions of dollars.

Some council members called the development a direct challenge to their authority and refused to comply with Hansen's opinion, citing the precedent it would set.

"That didn't make any sense," said Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville. "I think the executive is wrong on every count. He's wrong on the law. He's wrong that it doesn't have a fiscal impact, and he's out of touch with the public." A report by the Office of Legislative Oversight found that granting the nearly 9,000 employees extra time off would cost the county $7 million next year or the workload of about 120 employees annually. And the executive branch's own oversight agency concluded a 1 percent increase in worker availability would net the equivalent of nearly 100 additional workers. The workers would take the additional leave while county residents pay roughly $250 in new taxes.

Council members told The Examiner they will still vote on the bargaining agreements this week. A majority of the legislative body has come out against the plan, and a council committee will review the arrangement Monday. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

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