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Urrutia receives $159,452 in unused vacation, sick leave

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Outgoing Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia got a big payout last year. As the highest paid employee, his gross salary was $385,691, according to city documents. While his base pay was nearly $230,053, the remainder came from unused vacation and sick leave he accrued over the years. Urrutia cashed out 344 hours of excess vacation amounting to about $38,520 and 1,080 hours of unused sick time for $120,931, according to the city. Mayor Scott Yuill said the city anticipated the payout and has allowed the practice in the city manager’s employment contract since 1982. Sick and vacation payouts are not considered compensation under California’s Public Employee’s Retirement System rules and do not impact retirement benefits. Earlier this year, a Sacramento pension watchdog group, California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, accused the city of spiking Urrutia’s pension by taking the money the city used for Urrutia’s pension payments to PERS, cell phone and car allowances and giving it to him as salary to pay those expenses out of his own pocket. That practice has since changed, according to city officials. Last year, Urrutia and four other managers retired ahead of schedule to save the city nearly a million dollars in salary. In exchange, the retirees got two years service credits toward their pension. The city is paying CalPERS more than $50,000 a year for the next 19 years to accommodate that plan. Urrutia’s not alone in the leave cash out, last year Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson cashed out $91,612. He officially separated from the city in the spring. Police Chief Mark Siemens hit the city up for $65,891 in unused leave. Siemens is expected to officially end his employment with the city next spring. Urrutia, Richardson, Siemens and two other managers officially retired last year but have been rehired in their old positions in a part-time capacity. Urrutia now earns $142,573 on top of the pension from CalPERS that he’s been receiving since the beginning of the year. The others are receiving a six figure pension while they work for the city as well, a practice referred to as double dipping. The top jobs aren’t the only ones banking years of unused sick and vacation time. According to the city, it’s widespread. Every bargaining group in the city is allowed to cash-in hundreds of hours of time annually, according to the Memorandum of Understanding. The city workers union AFSCME, management, public safety management and confidential employees are allowed to bank 12 sick days per year with no maximum. The police officers association allows its members to bank up to 72 hours depending on service years and the fire department and a battalion chief is 144 hours with no maximum. Unused vacation time is a little more controlled. Confidential employees and AFSCME members are allowed to cash-in up to 24 days per year with a maximum of 280 hours, depending on service time. Management and Public Safety Management get up to 24 days and a maximum of 240 hours. A battalion chief and the rest of the fire department get to accrue 315 hours of vacation yearly with a maximum of 340 hours, depending on service time. The city has been facing more financial scrutiny after a public backlash following reports of pension spiking, double dipping and six-figure pensions in the backdrop of recessionary cuts. The city laid off more than a third of its work force since 2007 and closed the city to the public on Fridays among other cost-cutting measures. Recently, increased pressure from the public has forced the city council to back off the once publicly declared $200,000 starting salary for the next city manager expected to be hired by December. While details remain confidential, city council members contend the salary will be competitive with other city managers pay in the region. Right now, the city council is getting ready to interview dozens of candidates who have expressed interest in Rocklin’s top job. Yuill said the next city manager may not have such a lucrative leave payout. “Such a formula isn’t appropriate for the next city manager,” Yuill said. For more information about union MOUs, salary schedules and employee benefits go to the city’s website http://www.rocklin.ca.us/ and look under the City Services drop down menu; click on Human Resources. City Manager’s 2009 Leave Payout Total: $159,452.12 1080.58 hours of sick leave $120,931.49 344.2 hours of vacation $38,520.63