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Workers unselfish act
She resigns so older employee can stay
Patricia Overy, who is pictured while addressing the Lathrop City Council Monday night, gave up her job in the finance department so that a co-worker who “needed the job more” does not have to be laid off. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATHROP – Patricia Overy, a wife and the mother of four children ages 14, 7, and four-year-old twins, has volunteered to give up her job with the City of Lathrop so that a co-worker in her 60s will not be laid off.

She made the announcement to the City Council members and the people who packed City Hall’s council chambers Monday night when the city leaders voted to lay off 10 more employees and discontinue the funding of one unfilled position.

Overy, who has worked for the city for seven years as an accounting technician, said she decided to step down because she “felt she could cope with the loss of a job better than” her co-worker, Sharon Singleton, who also works in the finance department as Accountant I.

Overy said her husband was surprised when she told him of her decision, “but he supports me 100 percent.”

Her husband works for the City of Tracy where he has been employed for seven years.

“We have health coverage through my husband’s job so we’ll be all right there,” said Overy who plans to start pounding the pavement looking for new employment after has spent “a little time with the kids.”

Overy’s emotional and teary announcement was greeted by warm applause from the audience which included other city employees whose jobs are being eliminated and union representatives. Six of the 11 workers who are being let go are members of the Service Employees International Union. Singleton did not attend the council meeting. Thursday would have been her last day on the job. Today is Overy’s last day on the job at City Hall.

Asked how Singleton reacted to the news that her job was safe, Overy said, “She cried and she was speechless.”

Overy said she also realized that if Singleton were laid off, that would be the end of it for her co-worker. Singleton’s position was such that there was no one else below her that she could “bump” and remain on the job. Furthermore, the older Singleton most probably would have had a harder time looking for another job if she were let go.

Overy was in a position to “bump” someone off their job if she were among those listed to get the ax, so her act of self-sacrifice actually saved two city co-workers from joining the Great Recession’s growing unemployment line.

Once she made up her mind, Overy said, “I approached my supervisor (Finance director Terry Vigna) if they would accept my request and if it was something that they could rearrange.”

City Manager Cary Keaten was also notified about her decision.

“It was a real surprise for my supervisor and the city manager,” Overy said of how the finance director and the city manager reacted to her request.

The resolution approved by the City Council Monday night reflected that change in the list of city jobs eliminated to further trim the city’s current budget which still has a deficit of $648,000.

How to shave off that much further in the current fiscal year’s budget shortfall will constitute the next bad news for the city. Under the financial survival plan executed by the city manager with the council’s blessing, the fourth phase of solving the budget deficit will constitute further negotiations with the Police Services which is contracted with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department and the labor unions representing city employees. If those steps do not yield the desired result of balancing the budget, the last resort will be the closure of some departments at City Hall in the spring of 2011.

The first phase of the city’s survival plan, which is part of a five-year plan, involved laying off 17 city employees in May of last year. Five of those positions were vacant but were funded. The city also instituted a Friday furlough across the board including Police Services which resulted in a 10 percent pay cut for all city workers.

The second phase of the budget-balancing plan took place in January when three positions in Police Services were cut back and returned to the Sheriff’s office. This step cut down the police contract from $4.9 million to $4.4 million which translated into a $500,000 savings for the city.
The city has been dipping into its reserves to bridge the $1.5 million deficit that needed to be pared down in this year’s budget.

The city manager reported that this year, money that went into the general fund was $12.4 million. In contrast, the city’s expenses are about $13.9 million resulting in the $1.5 million deficit.

Commenting on Overy’s generous act of giving up her job to save her co-worker’s employment, resident and community activist Dan Doyle said, “I think it’s honorable, but she shouldn’t be losing her job. None of these people (being laid off) should be losing their job.”