Carson Lays Off Workers but Forgets to Tell Them

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an effort to adopt a balanced budget last November, the Carson City Council deleted 40 positions from its work force. Thirty of those workers were supposed to move to vacant jobs and 10 employees were supposed to be laid off.

But someone forgot to tell the workers. As a result, city officials say, many have been working--and getting paid--for positions that no longer exist.

The gaffe has cost the city about $100,000 in unexpected wages thus far, contributing to a $3.4-million deficit as of Dec. 31, midway through the fiscal year that began last July. Carson officials said much of that deficit is expected to be made up in April, when franchise tax revenue from utility companies is received.

However, they said they are not certain when they will resolve the staffing mix-up.

Mayor Vera Robles DeWitt was at a loss to explain how the employees remained on the city's payroll in their previous jobs.

"Beats me," DeWitt said. "I'm just a policy-maker."

But Councilwoman Sylvia L. Muise said the reassignments may have been stalled because the city is negotiating freezes in wages and benefits with its five unions.

The budget contains several contingencies, including a stipulation that the city would forgo large-scale layoffs if the unions would agree to wage and benefit freezes to help balance the budget.

"I think staff was waiting for us to say whether we have an agreement with the union," Muise said. "They're still waiting. So staff doesn't know what to do" with the budget.

Deputy City Administrator Scot Yotsuya said the council had discussed moving the 30 workers into the vacant positions but had never issued a directive.

The mix-up came to light in a midyear financial report prepared last week by city Finance Director Lorraine Oten. Other city officials said they are uncertain precisely how many of the 40 workers remain on the payroll.

However, Yotsuya said some of the employees had since resigned or had been promoted to other posts.

Nevertheless, he said, those who remain are in positions that were cut from the 340-member work force when the budget was adopted.

Councilman Michael I. Mitoma said the council has tried to "micro-manage" the budget process and, as a result, has been a hindrance in its completion.

"Administratively, this city, the way it's run now, is a disaster," Mitoma said.

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