Richmond County recreation employee involved in comp time incident demoted

Melinda Pearson, the operations manager involved in a time card incident that cost Richmond County Recreation Director Tom Beck his job, has been demoted to an hourly maintenance worker.

Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan confirmed that Pearson was reassigned to the job at a lesser salary Wednesday based on his investigation into the incident.

Pearson, who earned $60,017 to oversee maintenance of the city’s parks, had a spotty employment record that included numerous reprimands and letters of concern about her frequent absences from work, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle.

Documents indicated Pearson took four paid days off in December only three weeks after taking 10 weeks of paid leave donated to her by fellow employees. Beck signed off on her time card, which stated she worked the four days, but claimed it was common practice to pay employees for unrecorded “comp time” after they work extra long hours for recreation and other events.

Citing the time card incident and City Administrator Fred Russell’s recommendation, the commission voted 8-1 to fire Beckon April 23.

Pearson’s request for comp time wasn’t the first. In 1999, she was denied a similar request by then-assistant Recreation and Parks Director Robert Howard, although Howard said in a memo that a previous recreation director had permitted her to take it as an exempt employee.

She was reprimanded in 1995 for not inspecting vehicles in the shop yard, leading to a break-in being overlooked.

In 1997, Beck reprimanded her for not warning drivers to stay off private property while in city vehicles.

While in her probationary period as operations manager, Pearson in 1997 was offered a transfer back to recreation specialist but instead accepted an extension of her probationary period as operations manager. Still in her probationary period a few months later, Beck warned Pearson about leaving the maintenance shop before the end of the 4:30 p.m. workday, something she “evidently” did on a regular basis, the letter stated. “What kind of example are you setting?” Beck wrote. “You are a manager! (on probation).”

The same year she was reprimanded for not checking employee driver’s licenses.

She was reprimanded in 1998 four times: for not following purchasing policies; handling a disagreement with a subordinate publicly; not taking care of a weed problem at a community center and for closing the entire operations division at 3:15 p.m. Dec. 18.

The same year, she was out of work for 25 days.

In December 1999, the driver’s license issue came up again, and it was discovered an employee paid to drive city vehicles hadn’t had a license since October.

Also in 1999, Pearson was placed on leave with pay after an incident on Bobby Jones Expressway. There wasn’t much detail about it in the record, but a letter from a deputy administrator said Pearson, in her city car, “attempted to perform duties that are normally reserved for deputies” because she “believed a co-worker was in danger.”

Using her personal vehicle for work also got Pearson warned. In 2001, she said she did it because “she was taking strong medication.”

In 2002, she allowed inmates to work in unauthorized areas and was placed on leave without pay for two days for consuming alcohol while on the job.

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