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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:28 pmJul 27, 20210

IG: Separation payments for outgoing employees are sometimes extra generous

Baltimore Inspector General finds unclear personnel policies allow BCIT employees to leave city government with fat paychecks

Above: Baltimore City government officials are trying to explain an “erroneous refund” caused by “a key-in error” compounded by an as-yet-unexplained software glitch. (Mark Reutter)

Some high-ranking officials get extra cash perks when they leave Baltimore government.

Eight employees let go from BCIT (Baltimore City Information & Technology) between May 2019 and February 2021 were awarded separation agreements that entitled them to fat final paychecks.

In all, $262,000 was paid out to the fortunate eight above unused vacation and sick time, which is permitted, according to a report issued today by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming

Cumming blamed the absence of clear personnel policies as the culprit, which gave BCIT management discretion to award the departing employees additional cash and health benefits paid by the city.

More than half of the extra costs ($148,899) came from adding leave days to the e-time records of the employees. Such a perk isn’t specifically barred by the AM (Administrative Manual) that covers personnel policy.

AM 205-7, however, does say that salaried employees are not entitled to receive cash payments for comp time unused at the time of their separation from city service.

But Cumming’s office found that $77,949 in “accrued compensatory time and public holidays” were nevertheless awarded to the eight employees.

Pre-approved Agreements

“Based on precedent established by prior BCIT management, BCIT offered separation agreements to multiple at-will employees who were being terminated or who involuntarily resigned from city service,” the public synopsis of the report said.

According to the report’s timeline, members of former Mayor Jack Young’s cabinet pre-approved the separation agreements and, before they were executed, the agreements were reviewed by the Law Department and Department of Human Resources (DHR).

To gain an understanding of the porous, ad-hoc nature of the process, the OIG examined the time sheets, payroll records and permission leave approvals of the eight employees, who were not named.

The office also interviewed current and former IT personnel as well as members of law, DHR and the labor commissioner’s office.

A Wider Problem?

Because the investigation arose from a complaint specific to BCIT, investigators “did not inquire about nor review the use of separation agreements by any other city agency.”

In a brief interview tonight, Cumming said the report spoke for itself and declined to say whether she is looking at separation payouts made by other departments.

Responding on behalf of Mayor Scott, City Solicitor James Shea said the administration has reviewed the IG’s more detailed, non-public report and its recommendation that the city provide consistency in termination payouts.

“Because the portion of the Administrative Manual referred to is the province of the Department of Human Resources, we have forwarded your letter and report to the Director of DHR to consider what, if any, revisions or supplementation would be appropriate,” Shea told Cumming.

“We trust that this is sufficiently responsive,” his letter concluded.

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