Twelve of the city employees who lost their jobs as part of the retire and rehire probe are trying to get their jobs back. The Canton government workers have filed appeals with the Civil Service Commission. A hearing will be scheduled.
Twelve of the employees who were fired as part of the city’s retire and rehire investigation have filed appeals to get their positions back.
The appeals were filed Monday with the Civil Service Commission.
In addition, a city union has filed grievances on behalf of 14 employees who also lost their jobs in connection with the probe.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2937 filed the grievances Monday, including a joint claim questioning the procedure used to fire the employees, said Bill Dieffenbaugher, union president. AFSCME Local 2937, which represents employees in the street, sanitation, water and sewer departments, also is seeking “terminal pay” for the employees — money for accrued and unused vacation and sick time.
Hearings have not been scheduled yet, he said. Dieffenbaugher said he expects the grievances to wind up in arbitration.
He declined to name the 14 employees or specify their former departments.
“They were led to believe that it was legal and all up-front to do it,” he said of the 14 workers who retired and got re-employed. “Now all of a sudden it’s, ‘Whoops, you’ve got to go.’ ”
“We don’t believe they did anything wrong,” Dieffenbaugher said. “Definitely not criminally; they’ve all said if they had known there had been a repercussion like this, they wouldn’t have done it.”
If any of the 14 AFSCME employees are hired back, they likely could not fill the jobs they lost due to union contract rules regarding seniority and bidding.
The city “lost a lot of good people and a lot of experience,” he said, noting that each of the 14 employees had more than 30 years of experience. “It hurts on both sides.”
“They were all very emotional,” Dieffenbaugher said of the affected AFSCME employees. “How would you like to ... do something you thought you were allowed to do and then ... told you lost your job? It was not their intent to walk out that door.”
Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission will hold a hearing on the 12 non-union appeals within 30 days of the filings, said Samuel Sliman, the city’s civil service director. The commission either will make a decision or take the appeals under advisement, Sliman said.
The 12 former employees had filled classified civil service positions, he said. The Repository filed a public records request Wednesday with the city law department for information — including the names of those dismissed — related to the appeals and union grievances.
The 26 employees — classified civil service and union — are part of a group of 29 city workers who lost their jobs Jan. 13. The group does not include police and firefighters, who belong to a separate state pension program.
The dismissals were not discipline-related, city officials have said.
Page 2 of 2 - With the departure of the 29 workers, the city has roughly 890 employees, compared to more than 1,000 in the past.
“The public is not going to see any visible effect on the services they receive,” said Warren Price, the city’s service director and chief of staff for Mayor William J. Healy II. But “I certainly acknowledge we’re facing challenges right now in terms of operations.”
Price would not comment on specific departments or on when any of the 29 positions could be filled.
Most if not all of the union positions need to be filled, Price said, describing the staffing numbers in various city departments as “skeleton crews.”
City officials have maintained that the 29 employees were not technically fired, because each had retired previously so they could collect their state pension and get rehired. The employees kept their city jobs without missing a paycheck.
The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) allows a government worker to retire and then be rehired to his or her same job, a controversial practice often referred to as “double dipping.”
But because proper procedures were not followed, none of the employees were properly rehired and had to be “legally separated” from their jobs, Price said.
At least in some cases, Price said, the civil service employees who retired would have been required to re-test for the position. After a union position is vacated through retirement, the slot is put out for bid.
As a result, if any of the 29 employees had been properly rehired, he or she should have started at a lower wage and with less vacation time, Price has said.
That has led to the question of how much money each of the 29 employees owe the city for the improper payment of wages and benefits, Price has said. At the same time, the city also may owe each of the 29 employees for unused vacation and sick days.
Price has asked that the state conduct a special audit to determine what payments are needed to right the issue.
The agency has not decided whether it will perform a special audit. Michael Maurer, spokesman for the state auditor’s office, said it’s routine for the agency to process the audit request before making a decision.
Price said the state agency also could incorporate a review of the retirement irregularities into the annual financial audit of city government.
“I just want to resolve (the issue),” he said. “I just don’t want to be in a position where the city is paying out anything we pay out in good faith, but later is subject to some finding (from the state auditor’s office).”