Details in Augusta recreation director's firing revealed

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When recreation operations manager Melinda Pearson got four paid days off only three weeks after returning from 10 weeks of donated paid leave, it raised concerns among employees who’d given Pearson their sick leave, documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle show.

Beck  SPECIAL
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Beck

The paid time off, documented as four days worked by Recreation Director Tom Beck, was the only reason cited by commissioners when they voted 8-1 to fire Beck on Monday.

According to a summary of the investigation obtained Wednesday by The Chronicle, Pearson had requested and received so-called “catastrophic leave” from her city colleagues to take off work from Sept. 19 to Dec. 2.

The paid leave, donated by other employees into a sick leave bank, is granted to employees who request it and have exhausted accrued vacation and sick leave.

Back on the job only three weeks, however, Pearson took another four days off starting Dec. 29, claiming she’d obtained verbal approval for the days off as compensatory time from her then-supervisor, former Assistant Recreation Director Dennis Stroud.

Beck returned from a holiday Jan. 3 and fired Stroud for incompetence unrelated to Pearson, he told commissioners Monday.

The next day, he signed off on Pearson’s time card, which said not that she was taking compensatory or other time off, but that she had worked the four days.

Classifying comp time as days worked by salaried employees exempt from overtime requirements was a practice that has gone on for years, Beck said, while making a plea to keep his job.

It’s a practice afforded exempt employees who have put in long hours handling city events, the longtime city director said.

With Stroud no longer around to approve Pearson’s time card, Beck signed it, knowing she hadn’t worked the four days and that she had been off for 10 weeks only three weeks before, the report said.

Beck told Deputy City Admin­istrator Bill Shanahan that Pearson was eligible for comp time, despite her presumably exhausting all time off when she made the request for catastrophic leave, according to the report, which Shanahan prepared.

The report also said Pearson had previously attempted to obtain several days of comp time “and had been stopped” by Stroud.

Pearson remained on the job Wednesday, but Shanahan said his investigation into her involvement in the incident is ongoing.

An employee since 1977, Beck had his lawyer present Monday and is expected to appeal his termination in superior court.

Beck had the confidence of City Administrator Fred Russell at least as recently as July, when Russell awarded him a $15,000 raise, boosting his salary to $100,000, although commissioners threatened to fire Russell when they learned of Beck's and 43 other raises Russell gave out during a hiring and raise freeze.

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pointstoponder
447
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pointstoponder 04/25/12 - 10:09 pm
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Stroud wasn't around because

Stroud wasn't around because Beck had fired him. Employees present at the time stated that Stroud had denied the request because he knew it was wrong. One has to wonder if that was part of the reason he was terminated.

In any case, why is Pearson still employed?

c6murphy
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c6murphy 04/26/12 - 04:16 am
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Excellent question

Excellent question pointstoponder. But the answer is simply, this is Augusta, Georgia where all things are possible if you know the right people.

Little Lamb
47844
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Little Lamb 04/26/12 - 06:22 am
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1
City government is one big

City government is one big welfare agency.

RogueKnight
221
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RogueKnight 04/26/12 - 07:33 am
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I don't know if this was a

I don't know if this was a firing offense or not. If anything, he should have been suspended for a week without pay to make up for the 4 comp days that was paid to Pearson. I'd be interested to know what catastrophic leave is, myself. Personally, I hope Beck appeals and is successfully reinstated to his job.

Equaltreatmentforall
49
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Equaltreatmentforall 04/26/12 - 07:37 am
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Mmm.. Melinda Pearson must be

Mmm.. Melinda Pearson must be pretty special.

allhans
24401
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allhans 04/26/12 - 07:40 am
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My thoughts exactly

My thoughts exactly equaltreatment. Who is this person and why all the protectors?

bdouglas
5564
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bdouglas 04/26/12 - 07:44 am
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Still don't see the issue

Still don't see the issue with this. MAYBE worthy of disciplinary action, but firing? It is common practice at MANY places to treat comp time this way for salaried employees who can't receive overtime pay and where there's no 'official' way to note comp time on the time card. You work extra hours one week, you take off or leave early for those hours another week and still put down normal hours on a time card. This is a head scratcher.

Little Lamb
47844
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Little Lamb 04/26/12 - 08:01 am
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The problem is that Ms.

The problem is that Ms. Pearson has been absent from the job too long. Everyone is being compassionate, but as we see with School Superintendent Roberson, compassion must at some point succumb to businesslike principles. If she can't come to work, she needs to resign or go on disability insurance.

itsanotherday1
46644
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itsanotherday1 04/26/12 - 08:33 am
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Does the city offer short

Does the city offer short term and long term disability insurance as part of its benefits package? My company did, and it was relatively inexpensive. You took paid time off if you were sick, and after a week you were eligible for STD, which would pay FULL salary for up to six months, then LTD kicked in at 60% of pay. If you CHOSE to not buy the insurance, good luck!!
Does anyone know if the city operates the same way?

chadwick323i
48
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chadwick323i 04/26/12 - 08:48 am
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Just bring back Stroud as the

Just bring back Stroud as the Recreation Director and all will be forgiven!!!

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 04/26/12 - 12:10 pm
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Nice resolution Chadwick. So

Nice resolution Chadwick. So much could be accomplished with swift action like this. I'm not siding with either, just pointing out that sometimes, simple resolutions are the most beneficial.

bdouglas
5564
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bdouglas 04/26/12 - 10:16 am
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I would presume that after

I would presume that after such a long time off work she had a whole heck of a lot to catch up on when she got back. Probably worked a lot of extra hours to get caught up in those 3 weeks, hence the 4 days comp time. Morally questionable for sure, especially to those employees who donated sick days so she could remain off for her 'catastrophic leave'. But not outside the realm of possibility I wouldn't think. No word on what brought on the 'catastrophic leave'. If they fired Pearson, too, they might set themselves up for some sort of discrimination suit based on whatever reason her leave was for in that long period.

mike1sc
217
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mike1sc 04/26/12 - 10:23 am
0
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A 35 year employee and he was

A 35 year employee and he was fired for this? People should not play politics with the entire career of any employee...but, 35 years?

If I was an employee of Richmond County, I would paste this article on every bulletin board in Richmond County, so that ALL employees who work for this county can see what they think of their employees and how with no apparent guilt, ruin an entire career of someone for an obvious "getback" reason which we didn't read in this article.

Shame, shame, shame. What a great employer this would be to work for.

pointstoponder
447
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pointstoponder 04/26/12 - 01:09 pm
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Bdouglas you presume wrong.

Bdouglas you presume wrong.

Little Lamb
47844
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Little Lamb 04/26/12 - 01:19 pm
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Even if Susan McCord were to

Even if Susan McCord were to ask the tough questions, nobody in city government would give her the straight answers. Our only hope at understanding the matters underlying this story would be for city workers to post them here anonymously.

allhans
24401
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allhans 04/26/12 - 02:43 pm
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No one seems to be concerned

No one seems to be concerned with the fact that an employee (evidently one with some connections) was getting paid for not working when it was absolutely against the rules.
And that the money she was gifted belonged to us, the R.C. taxpayers.

Abbynoll
282
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Abbynoll 04/26/12 - 06:22 pm
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Meanwhile, memos are sent out

Meanwhile, memos are sent out saying that exempt employees are no longer allowed to receive comp time... no matter how much they work.

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