Council Still Ironing Out Employee Changes

OCEAN CITY – One of the seven ordinances Mayor Rick Meehan vetoed concerning the benefits of new hires for the Town of Ocean City returned this week to be “cleaned up”, as Council President Jim Hall phrased it.

The ordinance that was passed through second reading in January by a 4-3 vote — Joe Hall, Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, and Margaret Pillas in favor — called for the elimination of the fifth vacation week, the dependent life benefit to be eliminated, the ICMA 457 deferral compensation plan be reduced from $500 to $200 and the number of holidays be reduced form 12 days to 11 days with the second day of Christmas being eliminated.

On Jan. 18, Mayor Rick Meehan wrote a letter explaining his reasoning in vetoing the ordinance.  

“I believe the intent of the council was to eliminate the fifth week of vacation for new employees and for those currently employed that are not yet qualified to receive this benefit. The way this ordinance is currently written it takes away the benefit from those that have already earned and are currently receiving this benefit. I would support what I believe was the original intent and that is to eliminate the fifth week of vacation for new employees and those current employees that have not as yet qualified to receive this benefit,” the mayor wrote. “I also believe that the paid dependent life benefit is a valued benefit for our lower grade employees at a total cost to the town of approximately $3,800 per year. The cumulative effect of this change when combined with other proposed changes to employee salaries and benefits significantly reduces the value of the employee benefit package at very little savings to the taxpayers. I believe it is in the best interest of our citizenry and employees to retain the paid dependent life benefit.”

This week the amended ordinance returned to the Mayor and City Council only including the ICMA 457 deferral compensation plan match reduced from $500 to $200 and the holidays reduced from 12 days to 11 days.

Councilman Brent Ashley motioned to approve the amended ordinance and it was seconded my Councilwoman Margaret Pillas as the motion was withdrawn only a minute later.

Once Councilwoman Mary Knight asked how much it would save the town in changing the ICMA match, as well as Pillas questioning the number of holidays and what holiday has been decided to be eliminated, the council questioned whether further discussion was needed.

“If we pass this is on first reading can we re-schedule this at the next work session so we can get all of the updated figures so before second reading we are very familiar with what is being passed,” Meehan said.

Jim Hall agreed with removing the motion to pass the ordinance in first reading all together.

“It is just not fresh in my mind anymore what we did, there was a lot of stuff going on at that time,” he said. “So we can explain what the dollar amount is, what the vacations mean, and what is for old employees or new employees.”

The discussion will be scheduled for a future work session, at which time Human Resources Director Wayne Evans will re-fresh the council on options, as well as the pros and cons in passing the ordinance.

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin took the opportunity to re-instate his position on the ordinance.

“I am going to vote against this because since we were doing these benefits changes for employees I feel like we have taken steps to reduce our budgets … but this is one thing that hits our employees again, our insurance rate already went up,” he said. “I have always said anything we can do to help our employees and keep them happy and working for us. I don’t think we should do it.”

Another ordinance on Monday night’s agenda was amending the city code of Entitled Law Enforcement establishing a volunteer auxiliary officer program and was passed by a unanimous vote.

The ordinance states that the chief of police has the authority to establish an auxiliary officer program of unpaid volunteers.

Auxiliary officers are not vested with police powers and cannot take any initiating actions in the enforcement of the criminal law consistent with police powers. They are also not authorized to carry firearms while on duty, but are available to issue parking citations and municipal infractions. Their duties will be civilian and administrative in nature.