For the second straight month, Mayor Orr skipped the regular meeting of Borough Council and therefore was unable to shed light on the controversary surrounding how he allowed Bill Conner to accrue 800+ hours of leave time despite the fact that Conner’s has been out of work for more than a year.
Despite the Mayor’s second consecutive absence, the Council shared two letters with residents. Council President Karen Reeves wrote a letter in late October to Orr seeking the records surrounding the leave time. Reeves stated in the letter that Orr has always told the Council that the records were available if they wanted to see them. Nearly two weeks after receiving the letter, Orr has chosen not to share the records with either the Council or residents.
Also shared with residents was a past email sent by Bill Conner to the police force. In that email, Conner stated that no officer could carry more than 12 hours of ‘comp time.’ It is extremely concerning that Conner would then accrue 800 hours when his officers could only accrue 12 hours. While we can expect that management will always have certain ‘perks’ not given to the regular workers, the difference between 800 hours versus 12 hours seems to be more than a simple perk. It should also be noted that it does not appear that Conner has ever had a written employment contract with the Borough, therefore this comp time accrual does not appear to be something that was ever ratified by the Council, meaning that the accounting of the 800 hours falls squarely and solely on the Mayor.
Council has turned the issue over to the State Attorney General’s office and requested an audit.
For the record, the Council requested an audit, not an agreed upon procedure. Some may recall the spring primary drama surrounding Councilman Kerns’ use of the word audit and theft when referring to the perceived issues with former Borough Manager Francie Howat and an agreed upon procedure that was suggested by Councilwoman Thompson. The results of the agreed upon procedure released in October of last year showed no theft, no missing money, and in fact, found that the Borough actually had an extra $48.
I find it shocking that Councilman Kerns has said absolutely nothing about this issue, given his springtime outrage over the $48 excess as part of the findings in the agreed upon procedure. Kerns was absent from the meeting, as was John Pappas. It will be interesting to see if any of these three men show up to explain how such an egregious violation of weak accounting procedures could occur under their watch, especially given the findings of the agreed upon procedure last October.
Unlike Kerns, I am going to use self-restraint and not accuse anyone of theft. I am simply going to ask a few questions. If there is no record of how the hours were earned, how can Conner be paid for them? Who authorized these payments? How can payments be authorized without any accounting system? Lastly, in the spring, Mayor Orr stated in the newspaper that Bill Conner did the payroll for the police department. Is that not a conflict of interest that makes the whole lack of records a bit more concerning? To be fair, Conner should not be responsible to answer for 12 hours of leave time, as that is the amount of time the officers were allowed to accrue. We should get answers about the other 788 hours, though.
The great thing about Council’s decision to request an audit is that the State Attorney General’s office will be in total control and have the ability to get the answers tax payers deserve. The other easy solution to this problem, as has been written and stated for at least 3 months now, is that the Mayor could simply release the records. The fact that the request for records has been going on for several months, that the Mayor refuses to comment in the newspaper, that the Mayor is now skipping meetings, and that there are still no records released leads me to wonder if in fact the records ever existed in a formal manner prior to the requests being made. After all, if we are paying tens of thousands of dollars to an employee who is not working, shouldn’t taxpayers know how that money was earned? Whether it is through the Mayor talking, or an audit by the State Attorney General, residents will soon learn what is going on.