While the register of deeds and the sheriff are elected officials, Holland said they work full-time hours — or more — and receive all the other benefits full-time county employees receive. Why wouldn’t they get paid time off as well?
“I’ve spent years trying to bring us to this point — I’ve spent years trying to get back a benefit that was taken away from me after I got elected to one of the highest positions in the county, which is very unfair in my book,” Holland told commissioners back in March.
Holland worked for the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years before being elected sheriff, but because of the county’s personnel policy, he lost all the vacation and sick hours he accrued over the years. Holland presented a resolution to amend the county’s personnel policy to give himself and Register of Deeds Todd Raby the same benefits as other full-time salaried employees.
Commissioners tabled the request last month but unanimously approved the change at its April meeting. County Attorney Chester Jones said the accrual of sick and vacation hours would not be retroactive — meaning Holland can’t recoup the hours he lost during his tenure as a deputy.
Holland thanked the commissioners for their decision. While it won’t give him back the time he lost, he said it would help the next sheriff that comes into office.
“None of you commissioners are responsible for that being taken away from me,” he said. “I’m still not going to be happy in the end because I’ve literally lost 15 years of benefits that were taken away from me but it’s going to be a little bit of an advantage to me.”
The one big benefit the accrued vacation and sick hours can have for employees is using those hours toward their payout when they retire.
“I’ve seen my officers retiring and that added time is a huge benefit to their retirement,” Holland said.
Commissioner Karl Gillespie asked if the county’s policy is consistent with other counties in the state.
Holland said a majority of sheriffs in Western North Carolina, including Swain, Haywood and Jackson, do receive PTO hours but he wasn’t sure about the rest of the state.
Jackson County allows for the elected positions of sheriff and register of deeds to accrue both vacation and sick leave. The county’s policy allows them to accrue 12 days of sick leave per year and accrual of vacation leave is based on service.
On the other hand, Clay and Cherokee counties do not offer these benefits to elected officials.
Since elected officials are paid a salary that is not based on the number of hours they put in each week, Cherokee County Manager Randy Wiggins said, they could technically come and go as they please.
“This negates the need for accrual of and use of vacation time,” Wiggins said. “The only benefit accrual of sick time would provide would be as it relates to counting toward creditable service for retirement purposes. If they were to accrue then I would think that you would also want to ensure that they also claimed it on those times when they were out sick and as elected officials there really would be no way to monitor or confirm that.”
However, Jackson County keeps track of the sheriff’s and register of deed’s hours in exchange for the PTO benefit by requiring them to submit a time sheet. Macon County will also use this method now that the new policy is in place.