Santa Ana City Attorney Parts Ways, Paid $191,699 For Unused Time Off, Stemming From Questionable Contract Agreements

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Learning of the story of former City Attorney Joe Fletcher makes us want to get a job for the City of Santa Ana, craft a few shady amendments into our contract, and then leave with all the hefty payouts and benefits. 

According to a story by Voice of OC, Fletcher managed to cash out $191,699 in unused vacation and sick leave when he left the position last week, which will be added to the $142,080 he'll receive as part of his severance package. In total, that's $333,779 for walking out the door.

It's not just the sums of money that are peculiar, but also the way Fletcher managed to make them come his way.

From the Voice story: "Fletcher was able to receive such a large payout, Councilman Sal Tinajero confirmed, because of a 2002 contract amendment that allowed him to carry over sick-leave hours as though he had been working for the city since 1983--13 years prior to his actual hiring in 1996. The amendment also allowed him to accrue unlimited vacation time."

Which bodes the question of who's to blame: Fletcher for trying to milk every buck out of the system that he could, or the boneheaded official who signed off on the deal? We're leaning toward the latter.

Authorities on the issue say they hadn't seen a departing employee with more than 400 to 600 hours, and if Fletcher's hours had fallen into this range, his payout would have been less than $100,000. A representative from the city told the Voice it would not release the breakdown of Fletcher's hours.

This is the same city attorney who didn't seem to mind hearing about city-council members receiving donations that proved a conflict of interest (which they later admitted), but then again, that probably paled in comparison to his coming payday.


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9 comments
linaimai
linaimai

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Guest
Guest

Doesn't seem like that much to me.

What's the big deal?
What's the big deal?

@ Chassen. If you understood the numbers, the amount is not unreasonable.

Cityauditor
Cityauditor

When someone who doesn't understand the numbers looks at them, it looks pretty bad. But, that amount isn't that bad. First of all, city attorneys don't make very much compared to other attorneys. Their realization rate is usually around $200 an hour. Billing rates for SEC attorneys are three times that much. Secondly, based on $200 an hour, that is only 1,000 hours of vacation/sick over a 27 year period. Or, 37 hours a year. Let's say he gets 120 hours of vacation and 40 sick annually. That is less than 1/4. Not that unreasonable. The number of hours just seems high because it wasn't a "use it or lose it" situation.

The severance part of the payment represents about six months of work. Again, not that much. The city was lucky it wasn't a year.

I'm not a city employee, just someone who has audited cities for 10 years and knows a little something about them.

Chasen_Marshall
Chasen_Marshall

You must make a hell of a lot of money – that's not saying much, by a reporter's standards – to believe $300,000+ not to be a big deal.

What's the big deal?
What's the big deal?

I can see where you are coming from. But look at cityauditor's response above. That breakdown seems reasonable for an attorney.

Btw, I like your work. I haven't seen anything from Matt lately. Is he still around?

Chasen_Marshall
Chasen_Marshall

CityAuditor makes some good points, but still a shady situation. Matt has been on vacation, but will be back breaking stories and kissing babies next Monday.

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