DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver City Council member wants answers about why the city is paying millions to city workers for sick days they never used.
Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz learned of the policy from CBS4′s investigation which aired in May and it concerned her. She said it seems the city is being overly generous at a time when it can’t afford to be.
“Well the public should care because it’s money out of their pockets,” she told CBS4′s Brian Maass.
CBS4 found that for years in the contracts with police and firefighters the city has agreed to pay those workers for up to 90 unused sick days when they leave, no matter what the circumstances.
That has led to some eye popping figures, like a police captain who retired this year and got $52,000 for unused sick days, another captain who got $45,000, and other officers who got fired and still got tens of thousands of dollars for sick days.
“You’ve pointed out some things that make me question if we are where we should be,” Faatz told Maass.
Faatz said she believes the system is encouraging workers to come in sick so they can later get paid for the unused sick day.
“I am not a fan of converting that into taxpayer money,” she said.
Other cities CBS4 contacted don’t seem to be as generous as Denver. Seattle only pays departing officers 25 percent of the value of accrued sick days. In Cleveland, police and firefighters only get paid if they retire, and then they are only paid 33 percent of their banked sick days.
For Phoenix police, they are only paid for sick days if they retire, and then for 60 percent of their bank.
“It does at least raise questions if we are being overly generous,” Faatz said.
Faatz says she is now seeking more information about this unfunded liability, and wonders if public money being paid out for unused sick days could be put to a better use.
“We could turn that into money to hire additional police and firefightters and there would be help in doing the job,” she said.
Faatz says right now the city owes police and fire $95 million in accrued sick and vacation days.