County Tells DA: No More Free Time Off

Santa Clara County Executive’s Office calls for restrictions on administrative leave use in the DA's office after an NBC Bay Area investigation

By Jenna Susko and Julie Putnam
|  Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013  |  Updated 3:11 PM PDT
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Santa Clara County Executive’s Office calls for restrictions on administrative leave use in the DA's office after an NBC Bay Area investigation.

Santa Clara County Executive’s Office calls for restrictions on administrative leave use in the DA's office after an NBC Bay Area investigation.

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Administrative leave given to employees in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office has a new limit: 40 hours per employee per year, effective through the end of this fiscal year.

In a letter to District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Deputy County Executive Luke Leung calls Rosen’s giving of thousands of hours of administrative leave “excessive” and “irregular.”

“We know that the use of administrative time in substitute for vacation time is real cash,” County Executive Jeff Smith told NBC Bay Area in an interview Monday. “We want to make sure financially, that the county’s not at risk.”

To read the County Executive Office's letter to DA Rosen, click here

Meanwhile, the counsel for the union representing employees who were granted the time off, has also issued a statement, calling the DA’s use of administrative leave “a gift of public funds.”

To read the union's statement click here

This comes after NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit exposed District Attorney Jeff Rosen directed hundreds of time sheets be altered, granting administrative leave in place of vacation and sick time, allowing employees to bank those days which they can later cash out.

To view the full investigation, click here

According to county policy, administrative leave is to be given at the department head's discretion to employees who have worked "an extraordinary number of hours" and according to the union contract, in “increments usually less than one day”.

Rosen told NBC Bay Area in an interview April 4, 2013 he directed time sheets be altered to give extra time off in order to make up for a five percent bonus cut taken by lead attorneys in September 2011.

“The documents are changed to reflect administrative leave and we are doing it openly and transparently,” Rosen said. “I didn’t think that was fair and that’s why I instituted this policy.”
Rosen issued a letter, Monday defending his actions.

To read Rosen’s letter, click here

“I think your investigation brought up the issue of large numbers in regard to use of administrative time, so based on that, our initial evaluation was that this is a significant amount of benefit,” Smith told the Investigative Unit. “We would like to make sure in this time where we’re considering cuts that we don’t use up any more resources then we need to.”

Smith said the reason for limiting administrative leave is to clarify any ambiguity surrounding the proper use of the time off. The letter suggests if a manager believes more than 40 hours is warranted for a particular employee, that manager will need to acquire additional approval from the Employee Services Agency before granting that time off.

“This puts a limit on it essentially, puts a tourniquet on a bleeding limb,” Smith said. “We’re just saying if there’s a desire to go above 40 hours, we want to have an opportunity to look at the justification.”

Chris Platten, the legal counsel for the Government Attorneys Association, the union representing the employees affected, insists the use is “a gift of public funds”

“It doesn’t matter if he believes it’s fair or unfair, the point is he’s not elected to give away public funds,” Platten told NBC Bay Area on Monday.

“What surprised me the most, based on your investigation, is there appears to have been a conspiracy to absolutely circumvent the collective bargaining agreement,” Platten said. “Absolutely circumvent the agreement that these employees would not receive five percent and to provide them with that differential pay.”

Rosen told NBC Bay Area he does not see the granting of thousands of hours of administrative leave as a gift of public funds.

“You are paying people not to be at work, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Platten said.

Do you think action should be taken?

Tweet us @jennasusko @putnamproducer

Do you have a tip for the investigative unit?

Email us theunit@nbcbayarea.com
 

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