Brunswick may rein in unused employee vacation time

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BRUNSWICK — A policy amendment to clarify the process by which employees can carry over unused vacation time will go to a Town Council public hearing Feb. 23.

Under the updated policy, town employees who wish to carry over vacation time in excess of the 30-day maximum to the next year will have to obtain written authorization from the town manager.

Any excess time will expire at the end of the following year, unless the employee obtains another written approval from the town manager.

The proposed ordinance also clarifies that employees who work in lieu of vacation cannot receive both vacation pay and regular pay for the same period without a written exemption, and states that employees cannot substitute other forms of leave for vacation time once a vacation commences.

The new rules, spelled out in a memo to the council from Town Manager John Eldridge, are a reaction to several senior town employees who have accrued vacation time above the 30-day limit.

The issue came up during the council’s town manager search last year.

During the selection process it was revealed that Eldridge, then the finance director, was carrying over nearly 1,300 hours of unused vacation time, worth approximately $60,000 if paid out in a lump sum. Unused vacation time is paid out to the employee after they stop working for the town.

While a policy that allows employees to carry over excess time with written approval has been on the books since 1995, the process was ignored over the decades, allowing some employees to accrue substantial vacation time.

The council selected Eldridge as town manager in September. His contract with the town caps the amount of vacation time he can be paid out at $30,000.

Because the personnel policy is a town ordinance, it requires a public hearing and council vote.