Monday, June 24, 2013

Pitkin County employees able to collect time off for good behavior: Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (KASE), Aspen, Colorado

by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News

Monday, June 24, 2013

About one-fifth of Pitkin County employees received extra time off last year totaling 769 hours with a cash value of $21,417, as part of a recognition program.

And this year through April, county department heads gave 11 individuals 268 hours of “administrative leave,” at a value of $10,656.

One of those distributions was from County Manager Jon Peacock, who gave 100 hours to airport director Jim Elwood in February. At a rate of $59.09 an hour, Elwood received $5,909 worth of time off.

The county allows employees to cash out up to 80 hours a year of their accrued time off, including regular vacation time and administrative leave bonuses.

According to finance director John Redmond, from 2009 through 2012, employees received $199,949 worth of administrative leave and $582,208 worth of vacation time.

County employees who have worked up to five years receive an average of four weeks of annual vacation time. After five years of service, county employees enjoy five-and-a-half weeks of vacation, according to the government’s website.

The county’s administrative leave program is a tool supervisors use to recognize an employee for outstanding work. Employees can nominate their co-workers for administrative leave, and it is at the discretion of the supervisor and the human resources director to approve the award.

Peacock said he gave Elwood the 100 hours in lieu of a $10,000 honorarium he received as part of the Jay Hollingsworth Speas Airport Award, which is co-sponsored by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Association of Airport Executives and the Airport Consultants Council. He was given the award in recognition for his environmental leadership related to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport’s runway expansion.

But because county policy does not allow employees to accept gifts, including cash for personal gain, Elwood could not take the check. Peacock decided that the airport director should be rewarded in some other fashion.

“It was an out-of-the-ordinary recognition and [with] Jim having to forgo the money, I thought it was appropriate,” Peacock said.

Elwood said he gave the $10,000 to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies as a charitable donation for a project it’s working on related to decaying forests.

“Obviously it’s a cool honor, and we had a conversation about the best and right thing to do, since I am a public servant,” Elwood said. “It was nice to be recognized by the award and it was a special recognition by [Peacock] that it was unique.”

Elwood said he hasn’t used any of the administrative leave hours yet, especially since he is in the throes of developing an airport facilities master plan that could double the size of the Sardy Field terminal, expanding it to as much as 80,000 square feet.

“It’s been hard to take any time off,” he said.

Peacock said the county doesn’t have a bonus program and giving administrative leave hours is a way to recognize performance. And that was the case with Elwood’s award.

“Look, if he can get a chance to spend time with family then great,” he said. “It’s not excessively used.”

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