in Houston, Texas

Banked vacation, sick time equal big bucks in Corpus Christi

Thursday, Mar 26, 2009, 07:02AM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
Parting isn’t sweet sorrow for some longtime city workers in Corpus Christi – it’s just sweet.

The city government – like many government agencies – allows employees to bank their unused sick time and vacation time and then receive a cash payout for some of it when they quit, retire or otherwise leave their jobs.

Some top city workers have walked away with some hefty extra checks in the past couple of years, a Texas Watchdog review of city pay data shows. Click here to skip down to a spreadsheet of Corpus Christi's highest-paid city workers in 2008.

The city paid out $865,459.97 in such benefits for just five key employees who left in calendar years 2007 and 2008, Texas Watchdog found:

+ Former City Manager George “Skip” Noe, who was pushed out of office last year by the city council, walked away with an extra $132,251.92, on top of his $178,333.046 salary, for a total 2008 payout of $310,584.97;

+ Water department chief Eduardo Garana, who left the city after two boil-water advisories were issued in 2007, left with banked time that brought his regular yearly pay -- just under $92,000 -- up to $220,420.10;

+ Firefighter Rex Callaway, who retired last year, was the city’s third-highest-paid employee for the year, bringing in a total of $208,997.45, of which his regular pay was $45,816.

+ In 2007, assistant fire chief Eloy Ceballos, who retired that year after nearly four decades of city service, was Corpus Christi’s highest-paid employee, taking home a total of $295,116.71, including his regular paycheck and retirement benefits;

+ Kenneth Bung, who retired last year as an assistant police chief after 48 years with the department, was Corpus Christi’s highest-paid city employee last year, city records show – he racked up $223,950.08 in extra pay, on top of his regular pay of just under $93,000, for total 2008 earnings of $316,814.77;

“He was one of our old-timers who had a lot of time and was able to take a lot with him,” said Kimberly Galan Flores, accounts manager over payroll and accounts payable for the Corpus Christi city finance department.

City workers currently get 11 sick days per year, and if they’re not taken by the end of the year, they carry over to the next one. "But you don’t get to take everything with you,” Galan Flores said. Probably 90 percent of the city’s employees face a city-imposed cap when they leave their jobs – they can get a cash payout for half of their banked, unused time off, up to 360 hours.

“You can’t take more than 360 with you,” Galan Flores said. “So, if you have 900 (hours), you’re only going to get the 360, and lose the rest.”

The city had 30 employees making $100,000 or more in calendar year 2008. It had 48 employees making more than the city’s median home value of $95,000.

It also had 35 employees last year who put in overtime equal to 50 percent or more of their base pay. The top 10 overtime recipients included three municipal court employees and six Police Department workers –- a communications clerk and five technicians in the combined 911 dispatching center for Corpus Christi and Nueces County.

Time cards photo by flickr user bradleygee, used via the Creative Commons license.

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