Last month, the last official action of outgoing Highway Administrator Ronnie Tremblay was to blast the Clay County Commission for how they had treated an employee of the Highway Department who had health issues.
Although we don't know the entire story, we do know that in August the commission formally reprimanded Tremblay for misuse of the county's sick leave policy. Tremblay had allowed a road grader operator to take leave in a manner that violated the policy, according to commissioners.
Essentially, what had happened is that this employee was only able to work a couple days a week but will still be getting full-time pay (or close to it) by claiming sick and vacation leave for the days he wasn't working. He was able to do this for an extended period -- long enough for commissioners to catch wind of it through a report from the state Department of Labor, which led to Tremblay being reprimanded.
We don't doubt the employee had a legitimate health issue, though the commissioners and Tremblay don't agree on whether it was one that sick leave can be used for. We don't doubt that the grader did good work for the county, as he had been employed for county for a long time.
But at issue is one of basic fairness -- do you allow one employee working just two days a weeks to get the same pay as one working full-time? That isn't fair, and it isn't fair to ask the county to pick up the tab for a permanent or ongoing health issue -- there are other programs that do that.
Tremblay's intentions were well-meaning -- he was trying to help a long-serving employee struggling to get by.
But the commission was also right to look out for tax payers. As Commissioner Jerry Mayo put it "We feel like we got taken to the cleaners on this situation."
As one of his last actions, Tremblay donated 98 days of sick leave he had accumulated to the county's pool of sick leave intended for those facing medical emergencies. He told commissioners the reason he resigned from the position was because of the reprimand and the commission not trusting his judgement.
We know Tremblay well enough to know he worked hard for the county in his many years working for the Highway Department. In the last part of that, in the seven or so years he served as Highway Administrator, he did a lot of good for the county's roads and bridges. It's a shame that his tenure had to end on such a sour note.
--Ryan D. Wilson