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Our view: End sick, vacation time payouts

Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

We continue to be amazed at the gall many in government have when it comes to frivolously wasting taxpayer money.

In the latest example, former McHenry County Public Health Administrator Patrick McNulty was allowed to cash out 80 days of unused vacation time to the tune of $47,479 in taxpayer money.

Yes, McNulty retired at the end of May after 35 often-troubled years with the county Department of Health and, in addition to his generous pension of about $95,000 a year, he was handed a check for nearly $50,000, all paid for by taxpayers.

Never mind that the McHenry County Board put rules into place in 2006 to curtail a practice – the accumulation of vacation days for a big payout at the end – that is nothing short of a slap in the face of taxpayers. The Board of Health at the time ignored the County Board and granted McNulty an exemption.

Why?

It’s not as if McNulty’s tenure at the health department was even average. He oversaw a department that for years defended a long-since debunked epidemiology study into the McCullom Lake brain cancer cluster. He also was in charge during several tumultuous years at Animal Control, where staff secretly audiotaped visitors and the director was not held accountable for it.

More importantly, why has this practice not been abolished in all taxpayer-supported agencies across Illinois? We applaud the County Board’s actions, and urge all government agencies in McHenry County to follow suit.

School districts have set the worst example. Former Cary-Grove athletic director and head football coach Bruce Kay cashed in more than a year’s worth of sick days to retire in 2010 at the age of 55 with full pension benefits that started at $95,316 a year.

It’s hard to blame McNulty, Kay and the countless others who took advantage of these loose rules for their personal benefit.

But in no entity where fiscal solvency is a must are such practices allowed to occur. It’s no wonder Illinois ranks dead last in voter trust, according to a recent Gallup poll.

In addition to our call to local governments, we urge state lawmakers to do what they can constitutionally to end this practice among all government agencies in Illinois.

Anything short of that is continued insanity.

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