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County retiree pockets $300K

Photo by Jason Braverman

Photo by Jason Braverman

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's county administrator, who retired last week, took home more than $300,000 in pay for unused vacation over the past three years.

According to terms of his contract, Jock Connell, the county's chief staffer for five years, was owed his accrued vacation and sick time upon his retirement, Human Resources Director Kenneth Poe said.

With 737.6 hours of sick leave and 992 hours of vacation leave, Connell's payout at the end of last year was $199,034.59, Poe said.

That was on top of a 2007 payment of $64,996.12 for 675 hours of vacation leave and a 2008 payment of $67,525.98 for 600 hours of vacation leave.

"Jock was paid out pursuant to the terms of his contract with the Board of Commissioners," said Glenn Stephens, Connell's replacement.

Attempts to reach Connell for comment were unsuccessful.

Five years ago, the retirement payout for Connell's predecessor also made headlines.

Charlotte Nash, who, like Connell, had worked for the government for decades, had accumulated 2,454.48 hours of unused vacation time, leading to a $221,457.08 payout.

At the time, officials said they would resolve the firestorm and limit the amount of vacation time employees could accumulate. Connell's amount was limited to a cap of 1,800 hours a year, and department heads were capped at 360 hours.

Connell's original contract as county administrator allowed for 30 days of annual leave each year, Poe said. A new contract reached in 2007 granted Connell an additional 10 days of leave each year, beginning in 2008, giving him 40 vacation days in 2008 and 2009.

The contract also would have reduced his cap to 360 hours -- or 45 days -- beginning in 2010. Poe said officials allowed for three annual installments to be made to reduce the vacation time by 2010, which account for the 2007 and 2008 payments.

Despite the large payout, Connell could have qualified for nearly $100,000 more.

The former county finance director announced his retirement in August, at a time when retirement incentives had been announced to trim the county's work force.

Connell qualified for $91,915.40, according to figures from the Human Resources Department last summer based on the incentives -- including 20 percent bonuses on accrued vacation and sick time and a week's pay for every two years of service. But he declined to accept those perks.

While Connell's contract had already been signed before the vacation issue came up in 2005, the issue was addressed in the contract approved with Stephens last year.

Stephens received 30 vacation days a year, and his cap is set at 360 hours, an arrangement matching the contracts of all county department heads.

Chairman Charles Bannister declined to comment on the situation.