Ventura City Manager John Baker, who will leave for the private sector in July with nearly $50,000 in unused vacation time and sick leave, is the only city employee permitted to cash in an unlimited amount of vacation hours, city personnel officials said Wednesday.
Most other Ventura city employees must forfeit unused vacation time after they reach a limit of 240 hours, and even police and fire officials cannot accrue more than about 550 hours, said Christine Schlag, a senior personnel analyst.
Baker, who takes about 10 of his 20 allotted vacation days each year, has amassed 825 unused vacation hours since he came to work in Ventura nearly 13 years ago. He has also collected 540 hours of unused sick leave, but according to city policy he can receive reimbursement for only 25% of that time.
Surprised to learn earlier this week of Baker's sizable stockpile, some City Council members said Wednesday that they intend to negotiate a more spartan contract with the city's next manager.
"That's the very first thing I asked the mayor to do when John told us he was leaving, that we meet and discuss a new pay package," Councilman Jim Monahan said.
Schlag said the provision allowing Baker to store up an unlimited amount of vacation time was approved by the council in 1990--the same time the city established a separate interest-bearing account into which Baker has deposited $295 per month.
That fund--payable upon his departure from the city--now holds about $14,000, which Baker has asked the city to apply toward his future health care premium payments.
Monahan sat on the council that approved the resolution but said he is "almost positive" that he opposed it. "I guess I was the only one that recognized we were entering a very tough time," he said.
Councilman Gary Tuttle said he also wants to offer the new city manager a less generous contract, at least initially.
"I don't think we should start off where we left off" with Baker, he said. "It was part of his reward for doing a good job. My goal would be to negotiate down and start back up again."
Officials at the League of California Cities, a statewide city lobbying and informational organization, said it is not uncommon for city employees to have no cap on accrued vacation time.
Personnel officers at the cities of Camarillo, Santa Monica and Santa Clarita said, however, that their city managers are bound by the same vacation caps that apply to everyone else at City Hall.
Employees at the cities of Santa Monica and Santa Clarita cannot collect on any of their unused sick leave, while Camarillo employees cash in sick leave on a sliding scale, depending on how long they've been with the city, according to personnel officials at the three cities.
Baker could not be reached for comment.