By Ryan Hagen, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 08/14/2012 12:50:26 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – As employees continue to flee the city before massive layoffs that are expected soon, some say they aren’t sure how they’ll get by without payouts of accrued vacation and sick time they had built up over the course of their careers.

Officials have stopped making those payments until they get control of a cash-flow emergency that has sometimes left the city with as little as $150,000 on hand.

Without the policy change, they say, there would be no way to pay the bills.

At least 67 employees have quit since the City Council authorized a bankruptcy filing July 10, according to Acting Assistant City Manger Gwendolyn Waters.

And some of them reportedly had payouts totaling $300,000.

For other employees, the totals are smaller – but they’ve still long been counted on.

“One gentleman in our division, he’s over 70 years old and he was planning to use those payments to pay off his house loan,” said Stephen Johns, a sewer maintenance worker in the Department of Public Works. “He’s uncertain when he’ll actually get those payouts and what he’ll do until then.”

Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller told the council before it voted to authorize the change that the payments would resume once “our cash flow problems begin to resolve – several months.”

But the details of the payouts are still being worked out, Waters said.

“Since the vote was on the evening of Aug. 6, anyone who filed before that will still receive them, although they may be asked to accept payments over time as opposed to a lump sum,” she said. “How the suspended cash-outs will be handled is unknown right now.”

Mayor Pat Morris, who said some employees had collected $200,000 to $300,000 in payouts, also assured an employee representative before the vote that individual hardship cases could be negotiated.

No such requests have been made, Waters said.

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