Workers on Paid Leave Are Expensive for O.C.

Times Staff Writer

Orange County has paid $4.5 million to 260 employees over the last five years to stay home, according to a county study of administrative leave released Friday.

The largest number of idled workers, 77, came from the Sheriff’s Department, which also racked up the highest cost: nearly $1.6 million in administrative leave since June 1998.

The Probation Department, at one-third the size of the Sheriff’s Department, recorded the largest number of lost work days -- 7,771, or roughly the equivalent of one worker for 31 years. The department paid $1.3 million to employees on administrative leave in that five-year period.

“This is a horrendous amount of time” for paid employees to remain at home, said Supervisor Bill Campbell, who asked last month for the review of administrative leave, typically given to workers who are under investigation for misconduct. “The numbers just jumped out at me.”


One Sheriff’s Department employee -- not named in the report -- was kept away from the office 531 days before his work issue was resolved, the analysis by interim County Executive Officer James D. Ruth showed. Four workers in other departments were also on paid leave for more than a year.

Attempts to reach county department heads for comment late Friday were unsuccess- ful.

The study did not include figures from comparable counties. But it showed dramatic differences among Orange County departments, with some -- including the public defender and county housing and library departments -- reporting only a handful of administrative leaves over the period.

Attention in recent weeks focused on the district attorney’s office after an investigation by The Times revealed that two department employees were suspended with pay for more than a year before Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas took action.

One worker was fired while the other was allowed to return to work.

District attorney’s office employees accounted for 1,812 days of paid suspension in the last five years, the review showed.

The two idled county employees receiving the highest pay while on leave came from his office.