Debra Figone’s Parting Payout

A San Jose Inside reader wrote us this email: "Why hasn't there been an article regarding the pay-outs that Debra Figone got when she retired in December 2013? For a while, that was the 'big' news to keep the citizens riled up, the big payouts that police and fire personnel got! It would serve the citizens of San Jose well to know that the very person who was heading the cutting and slashing of city employee benefits, reaped some primo benefits herself!"

Ex-City Manager Debra Figone, who fought for years to limit the sick leave payout employees claimed upon retiring, cashed out $109,166 in unused hours when she left last December, according to city officials. Her vacation payout came in close to $40,000.

In the wake of economic recession, the city enacted wage freezes and pay cuts, but massive payouts of unused sick leave—especially for sworn personnel—put a pricey burden on taxpayers. The claims, mostly paid upon retirement, cost the city $7.8 million in 2008. Already much higher than comparable cities, that figure ticked up to $11.3 million the next year and kept climbing.

With those payouts—the highest amounting to more than $300,000 certain years—some employees took home a higher annual salary than Figone, the city’s chief executive. For reference, here's a look at the most recent calendar year of employee compensation, which shows former Police Chief Chris Moore cashed out $215,470 in sick leave and vacation pay.

Most of the costs went to retiring police officers, who, unlike civilian city workers, used to have unlimited sick-leave payouts. But that’s changed as of last summer. City spokesman Dave Vossbrink says the police union settled the matter through arbitration in 2013, putting cops on the same plan as civilian employees—a cap at number of hours accrued as of July last year and the salary rate in place at the time.

San Jose Firefighters Local 230 have yet to settle a new contract, so sick-leave payouts remain an open question.

“To have full context, it’s useful to keep in mind that the original goal of the payout benefit was to help reduce the use of overtime of other employees covering those who were out on sick leave,” Vossbrink says. “That would be impossible to calculate, however.”

19 Comments

  1. “To have full context, it’s useful to keep in mind that the original goal of the payout benefit was to help reduce the use of overtime of other employees covering those who were out on sick leave,” Vossbrink says. “That would be impossible to calculate, however.”

    This is a great closing paragraph. No wonder people have lost faith in government.

    • Vossbrink’s right though. It was much easier to accurately predict payroll before the system was changed. In the old days, by some odd coincidence, city employees were sick exactly the same number of sick days they were allowed. The incredible thing about it was that it didn’t matter what that number was! It was a medical mystery that to this day has doctors scratching their heads. It cost the city a lot of overtime but it was as predictable as the sunrise.
      Nowadays it’s tough to tell which employees might stumble across some faith healer who miraculously cures them of whatever ailment afflicted them before they changed the system. Figone appears to be one of those who began to feel better once the City started giving bonuses for that which private sector workers don’t get rewarded, never give a second thought, and often refer to as “showing up for work”.

    • Sorry for another post. But Voosbrink is brain dead. If I want to donate some of my overtime on the books to a person who is a fellow worker (suffering a life crisis) or family member which requires full time care. That I cannot donate my over time on the books is just crazy.

      S RANDALL is right on!

  2. its Ironic that it was the city who proposed the Buy Back of “vacation and sick leave payouts”. and then then they get upset when they have to pay . This city could save a massive amount of money by paying for these annually , which has been offered by the unions . Wait and see if they publish what the Mayor and council will receive.

  3. Hmm, I wonder why the employees don’t want to take the cuts that the management and council are trying to force upon them? The “leaders” of the city won’t take their own medicine, why should the employees?

  4. The former City manager’s “pay-out” was governed by Council Resolution 73799 (Deb Figone’s employment contract.) You should all check it out.

    The “Gang of Six:” Mayor Reed, Vice-Mayor Nguyen, Councilmembers, Constant, Oliverio, Liccardo and Pyle authorized the reinstatement of 872.9870 hours of “sick-leave” to the first Fig (Figone) after six plus years of separation from city service to pursue employment at Los Gatos as the City Manager.

    I put in a “Public record request for Information back on December 22, 2013 to find out the information on the pay-out. It has just been recently that I was given the information.

    Here is the information:

    The City manager’s total number of accured sick leave hoours was 1419.5312 as of December 22, 2013.

    The sick leave hours available for compensation were 996.01.

    The total sick leave pay-out to the City Manager was $109,166.05 less applicable taxes.

    There are at least a couple of questions arising from this hypocrisy;

    How is it possible that after such a long time of separation from service “sick-leave” can be reinstated? Or, was this a “gifting of public monies?”

    Note the “Gang of Six membership.” The same “gang” that has wrought havoc on the city via Measures V, W, and B.

    The number of sick-leave hours for comensation of 996.01 raises some issues. First the 872.9870 sick leave hours comes to mind. Could the aforementioned amount be 87.6% of the “sick-leave pay-out?” Aslo, the number 996.01; why isn’t the number 900 hours like all other city employees? Why an additional 96.01 hours. (I’ll find this out later.)

    I talked about this issue at the “Rules and Open Government” committee meeting on Wednesday. Only Three (3) of the Gang of Six were present. Mayor Reed, Vice-Mayor Nguyen and Councilmember Oliverio. Councilmember Constatnt left “Rules” before I spoke on the topic.

    Lastly, a comment concerning the “Public Record Request for Information” process is germane for transmittal.

    As I have testified, I put in the original Public Record Request on December 22, 2013. After light hearted chiding the “RULES committee” Mayor Reed finally directed the current City Manager to have “several of my pending Public Record Requests for Information (which also were several months overdue)” answered with dispatch.

    I did not have to wait so long. The rules of the Public Record Requests gives the City ten (10) days to respond or I could hail their sorry rumps iinto Superior Court-get the information requested and be awarded attorney fees. They all know the rules at “RULES.”

    Also, and more intriguing to me, the written response did not have any City letterhead on the document which I still think is “very strange.” I’ll post the copy on the “Public Record” by next Thursday so if your interested you can view the document the following week after the post.

    Lastly, there is a Public Record Request for information” submitted on April 10, 2014 that is still pending. Do the math concerning the doctrine of the Ten (10) days. The subject matter is focused on the profits made by selling reclaimed water by the Municipal Water System with reference to possible violations of FUND 512 and FUND 513 which are restricted use FUNDS at the San Jose / Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant.

    Have a great day!

    David S. Wall

    • David,

      Where do you post all the wonderful information you receive from these public records requests? You submit such eloquent (and very entertaining) public record letters to the Rules Committee, but I have never seen any of the documents requested from said letters. Do you have a website?

      Have you considered contacting the County Grand Jury for this one and your past efforts in turning over and looking under the rocks of City Hall?

      It would be great if you could run for City Council or maybe even Mayor. You have my vote!

  5. Vossbrinks state t makes absolutely no sense at all. This article also does not mention the other very lucrative perks that Figone received like reinstating 872 hours of sick leave she had accrued from when she was an employee in 2001 as well as a retirement package and a city paid 401k. She also was able to start accumulating vacation at a much higher rate than other employees with the same number of years of service were allowed to. All thanks to the crusader of pension reorder Chuck Reed. You can see it all here with his signature.

    http://www3.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/Agenda/060507/060507_03.10.pdf

  6. Because the local news media prefers to influence the public’s political views rather than objectively inform them, the public employee sick leave issue has been wielded about like a slick catch-phrase instead of treated to responsible analysis.

    How was it that cops accumulate so many hours at retirement? Popular propaganda proclaims the benefit was too generous — another example of employee greed. But in reality, the benefit level was arrived at through responsible negotiations in which need was weighed against cost. An unmentioned but important factor in calculating cost was the police department’s traditionally low staffing level, and the positive effect that bankable hours (convertible to cash upon retirement) would have on reducing sick leave use (thus reducing staffing shortages and sparing the city from having to hire more cops). Get a half-dozen cops (just 2 per shift) to come to work every day despite headaches, sniffles, or pulled muscles and the city avoids the expense of hiring, training, and paying about ten full time cops.

    Because the need was always based on the cop on the street — the men and women regularly exposed to an A to Z list of viruses, bacteria, allergens, and weather conditions, those employees who, like the majority of the command staff, spent a decade or more providing coffee and compliments to superiors in the warm confines of the police department were able to squirrel away thousands of hours of sick time (paid at highest hourly rate). Even on those occasions when they were made sick by a flatulent chief or low thermostat setting they were always allowed the flexibility of using vacation or compensatory time off (accumulation restricted).

    The vast majority of working cops were challenged to accumulate more hours than might be sufficient to cover a few months of medical leave that seems inevitably necessary in the careers of those who work decades in such exposed conditions. Perhaps a handful of the healthiest and luckiest of them retired having saved half their hours, but most didn’t, and none of them deserve to be criticized due to the crafty and self-serving ways of their superiors.

    But it is the cop on the beat that is today wearing the target of politicians and the press, hearing it on the street from the permanently resentful lowlifes with whom they must deal, and reading the comments from the shoot-from-the-hip jerks in the local paper. And the price for the cheap politics of Chuck Reed et al, gross partisanship of the media, and public disrespect will be paid by the future residents of San Jose who will never know the level of safety, or enjoy the high property values, that can only be provided by a professional and prideful police organization.

  7. Why is this even a story? The city led buy Chuck has been screwing employees for years and stuck a dagger in the hearts of all with the false BS of Measure B. They all (Council, Deb, city attorney) knew they were keeping their big retirements and lied about public safety and other pensions.

    How do you like it now all you clowns who voted for Measure B, I guess your wish came true. Now you wonder because so many department heads are leaving for other jobs? We don’t hear about their buyouts but do you want to count those as double dipping as most are taking jobs with other cities with their high SJ pensions.

    This has never been about public safety but about Chuck and his behind door deals. How many pensions is Deb getting from other employers?

  8. Really ? This POS went after city workers with a vengeance for their so-called excessive pay and benefits. But take a look at what she received on top of her massive salary : 872 hrs of sick leave gifted to her from Dufus Reed , a full Pension , an additional 10% of her salary into a 401K , $40,000 Vacation payout , $109,000 . doesn’t seem like suffered at all

  9. I hope SVN publishes the rest of city council and head members of departments post their buyouts Deb is not done she will come up with another pension job. And then our IPA, another joke. She is already over paid, and what will be her payout be?

    Chuck, you make me sick with your lies. Department heads get the same benefits you want to deny to city employees.

  10. Exactly. It would be simple to identify the sick days not used and calculate the amount of overtime saved by having those sick days left. I am not an actuary but one could then calculate this equation: The City could set aside a portion of the overtime savings it saved (still less than paying out the full overtime) into an account to pay for the future costs of the payouts that will need to be made at retirement — sometimes 30 years down the road. That would be a prudently fiscal thing to do. It is still less than paying overtime (so saving the City money now) and allows the money to earn interest to cover the cost at retirement.

  11. Disgusted:
    The biggest problem with the practice of banking leave time is that it is paid out at the rate of pay at the employee’s retirement. It would be a simple calculation to pay it at the rate of pay at the time it was granted. That would save $$millions. A 12 year old could probably write the software update to calculate that for all employees in an hour or so. The city’s IT crew would probably take months to accomplish that simple task.

  12. Bemused …. I would bet you that the Cops and Firefighters would have agreed to this as opposed to Reeds Scorched earth policy. The city was unwilling to truly negotiate into a better situation for everyone. Wow SFPD pulled it off with Mayor Ed Lee…. Why is Chuck so hell bent on his own brand of medicine. This is personal for chuck and the people who will pay in the end are the citizens… Ya lets vote for Liccardo so that we can have 4 more years of this nonsense!

  13. Stop wasting words – actually do something to change city government