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Lathrop pays $65K in cash vacations for top brass as rank-and-file workers laid off
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LATHROP – Lathrop rank and file workers’ message to City Hall bigwigs: Just say aloha to vacation buy-back perks.

According to figures obtained from the city’s web site, Lathrop paid a total of $65,814.97 in vacation buy-backs to 16 employees during the 2009-10 fiscal year. City Manager Cary Keaten led with $11,836.88 followed by Accounting Manager Cari James for $10,748.75 and Finance Director Terri Vigna for $9,635.59.

The fed-up employees who relayed their message to the City Council meeting Tuesday night even dressed up as Hawaiian vacationers with bright-colored leis around their necks. Their costume was intended to match the tenor of their open letter to “City Manager Cary Keaten & all other department heads” with at least $100,000 annual salaries.

“Greetings from Hawaii!” read the greeting in the flyer with a group picture for emphasis showing the employees in vacation garbs as though they were happily posing in the islands.

The message went on to say, “Actually, we can’t go with you because we’re not getting to cash out thousands of dollars in vacation time at taxpayer expense in the middle of an economic crisis like you’re doing – in fact, we can’t cash out any at all – but we wanted to send you a  postcard anyway! Wish you were here! Hugs!”

The letter was “from the furloughed employees of the City of Lathrop.”

The flyer, which was prepared by the Local 1021 SEIU which represents the city union employees, also states that the city attorney is receiving a “300 percent increase in vacation cash-out pay” in the proposed upcoming budget. Additionally, states the Service Employees International Union, the city’s other top-paid managers are also being proposed to receive the same boosts in vacation cash-out benefits “while front-line city employees are being laid off and services to residents are being cut.”

With city employee Wanda Marchman serving as spokesperson for the group of Hawaiian-clad employees who addressed the council, they asked that the city leaders “end this costly abuse of the vacation cash-out privilege at the expense of our Lathrop community by putting it on your June 21 agenda.”

In response to the employees’ demands, Mayor Kristy Sayles encouraged them to attend the hearings for the proposed 2010-11 budget which starts today and provide their input. Sayles further explained that budget figures, such as those that they stated in the flyer, are merely the numbers being proposed and are not final until after the budget reviews.

There are three budget-review meetings scheduled, all starting at 5 p.m. and held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing.

After today’s budget review, the next one will be held on Monday, June 14, followed by the last scheduled date on Tuesday, June 15.

Among the topics in today’s budget discussion is the recommendation to approve the Police Services proposed contract.