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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Armond Budish Seeks Elimination of Special Perks a Day After Trying to Sneak Them by County Council

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 1:08 PM

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In response to an ongoing investigation into Cuyahoga County top administrators, including former Chief of Staff Sharon Sobol Jordan and Chief Information Officer Scot Rourke, County Executive Armond Budish has taken steps, he said, to maintain trust with county voters and "ensure that the integrity of all documents sought by the prosecutor is maintained."

One of them is worth highlighting.

In addition to hiring a forensic investigator and placing both Rourke and IT general counsel Emily McNeeley on administrative leave — Rourke and McNeeley were the subjects of one of two subpoenas reported last week; Sharon Sobol Jordan was the other — Budish has taken a seemingly unrelated step.

"We recognize that our county has been operating under different sets of rules for different employees. I will be immediately requesting that County Council eliminate all special compensation “perks” from the proposed personnel handbook," Budish said in a statement. "Further, we will be immediately requiring all employees to fill out hourly time sheets exclusively through the MyHR system, and we will be submitting to Council a policy concerning training and education programs that applies to all county employees. Moving forward, I am instructing Earl Leiken, when he becomes new Chief of Staff, to review all county policies to ensure that they are being applied evenly and fairly for all our employees."

This decision was due, per Budish, to the fact that the county had been operating under "different sets of rules" for different employees. Chief among those differences was the fact that top executives were getting special perks, justified on the basic of luring and maintaining top talent. 

(Sharon Sobol Jordan, who got paid for hours she spent pursuing an MBA, as reported by Mark Naymik, received the most eyebrow-raising of these perks.) 

In fact only yesterday, Budish's chief talent officer Douglas Dykes — who was hired away from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District alongside Rourke and two others in 2015 — presented a new draft of the county's employee handbook to county council that included the special compensation perks Budish now is "immediately requesting" the elimination of.

County Council had registered their objections to the perks when an earlier draft of the handbook was presented. They wanted things like signing bonuses, extra vacation days, relocation stipends, and flexible overtime pay removed. (An internal audit found that salaried employees were paid $1.7 million in overtime in 2014, 2015 and 2016.)

But when Dykes presented an amended version of the handbook Tuesday, the perks were still included, much to the dismay of the council members. (Their reactions were reported by Cleveland.com yesterday, reactions that sufficiently communicated the message to Budish.) 

"I want to make it crystal clear," the County Executive closed his statement today: "Nothing is more important than maintaining the public trust between our residents and the County Government."


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