Refuse committee debates ultimate cost of retirement pay
The Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse District Committee remains deep in figuring out the district's finances; money woes came to a head when discussing the payment of a recently retired employee on February 28.
The district has been facing financial woes since 2017, when all three towns in the district were blindsided with unexpectedly high trash bills. It was revealed at the district's Feb. 8 meeting that the district itself had not undergone an audit since 2012; based on that, and the lack of paperwork for any purchases or sales, Marion's Finance Director Judy Mooney recommended a forensic analysis.
The committee is currently working with two audit companies, Lynch Malloy and Marini, and Powers and Sullivan, to come up with an estimate on what a forensic analysis would cost.
It was the matter of paying a recently retired transfer station employee that caused the most trouble, though. The employee had worked for the district for 40 years, and was paid $19,000 upon departure; altogether, the records said, he was owed more still, for unused vacation and sick time. The problem for the committee members was deciphering the maximum number of sick and vacation days could be accrued according to the district.
The problem meant that members were unable to decide the actual remainder of what the employee is owed, as he may have accrued more sick days and vacation days than the maximum allowed for payout.
Rob Zora, the former superintendent of Marion's Department of Public Works, was reticent about the payment analysis.
"This guy worked for the town for 40 years," he said. "He probably never even read his contract, never knew his maximum. We're a board trying to do the right thing. He worked a lot of unpaid hours, we should be paying him what he's owed, not gipping him."
Malinoski objected to the term. "Nobody's gipping anyone," he said. "It's not the job of the employer to remind employees to use their time or lose it. We're trying to validate the record, then we'll do an analysis, and decide what to do, and you'll get a vote."
"Anyways," he added, "How can you pay him? You're basically bankrupt! We need to work through this, we have a lot of bills coming up."
The most recent info on sick day and vacation accruals was listed in the district's 2012 audit, but changes had been made more recently in the Town of Wareham. "If there are changes, our polices should change with them," Malinoski said. "[Pickles] didn't add those changes."
Cordeiro, the payroll firm that the district uses, doesn't keep track of vacation or sick days accrued—simply those taken. With the records of the sick days and vacation days that the employee took available from the company, though, Malinoski said that the committee could calculate what he was owed.
The employee had been paid the original $19,000 by Moss Hollow Management, the district's then-business consultant, owned by Marion's Town Clerk Ray Pickles.
Zora had delivered the employee's file to the committee, a move that raised the eyebrows of Marion's Town Administrator Paul Dawson.
"Where did you get that?" he asked. "I talked to Ray Pickles two weeks ago, and I asked him if he had any more documents, because we needed them all, and he said absolutely not. All of a sudden, these appear."
"Makes no sense to me," said Wareham's Municipal Maintenance Director Dave Menard.
Zora said he wasn't sure what the deal was—Pickles had just handed him the notes, saying they were for the committee.
Further issues arose when Malinoski noted that at the committee's January meeting, members had told Pickles he was not allowed to issue any more checks, pending a review of finances.
The next day, Carver Town Administrator Michael Malinoski said, Pickles cut a $19,000 check to the retiring employee, ignoring the order to not issue checks.
Why $19,000, and not the full amount?
"It was probably how much we had at the time," Malinoski reasoned.