HAVING HIS sexual advances spurned by at least two female employees before getting fired, former Philadelphia Parking Authority head Vince Fenerty must have been so frustrated, he decided to screw the rest of us instead.
Last week, Fenerty, who resigned in September the day before he was to be fired, got a $227,000 payout from the Parking Authority for unused sick time, comp time and vacation time during his reign as chief of the state agency.
The PPA board - which was so clueless, it "forgot" about an earlier sexual harrasment complaint when a new one surfaced last year - didn't have to approve this payout. In fact, according to an Inquirer column by Mike Newall, Fenerty himself approved his own comp time.
On what planet are chief executives entitled to comp time? Expectations for executives are higher than for the rank and file who keep time sheets. Those expectations are supposed to justify higher executive salaries. Fenerty was earning $223,000 as executive director - more than any governor of any state in the union, including Pennsylvania - and is now collecting a pension of $158,000 a year. In fact, it would only be the most bush league of executives who actually kept track of comp time and sick time - and a league even lower than that to feel entitled to cash out.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a statement Thursday that he intends his audits of the PPA announced in October also will look into the payout issue, calling it egregious, excessive and inappropriate.
We hope the auditor general will look hard at all the records pertaining to Fenerty's time claims. And once those records are dug up and verified, they should be made public.
We suppose Fenerty assumed that this was business as usual, since most government workers at the city and state level are allowed to accumulate and cash out their sick days and other unused time. Such benefits are usually justified as sweetening the pot for government jobs that would garner a higher salary in the private sector. Such benefits also usually have a limit: Non-uniformed city employees can cash out 30 percent of their unused sick time, limited to 200 hours. Fenerty put in for 534 hours of unused sick time.
Fenerty's actions should spur a deeper look at all such arrangements. Many have called for reform across the country, usually following a case like Fenerty's. One study, cited by Governing magazine, found that over 50 percent of local governments allowed employees to cash out unused paid sick leave upon leaving their jobs. Cashing out sick days is especially costly because the rate at which this time is paid out is when a person is at the top of their earnings, not at the lower rate of an employee's earlier years. The point is this is a very expensive cost of doing the people's business - and often a hidden one that doesn't get much notice. For example, the School District of Philadelphia alone paid out $5 million last fiscal year for cashed-out unused time - $4 million of it in sick time. (The District was forthcoming in providing this number quickly; we are still working on the cost for such payouts across the city, since they are tracked in individual departmental budgets. The state budget is equally time-consuming.)