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Retiring foreman gives sick leave to cancer victim


A glimmer of hope shines in the aftermath of the announcement that Curry County Roadmaster Doug Robbins is leaving at the end of the year and a 32-year road department foreman is retiring: the foreman wants to donate his accumulated sick leave to a fellow employee whose cancer has returned.

“He has accumulated 444 hours of sick pay, and would like to donate them to Kim Alexander, whose cancer has returned,” Robbins told county commissioners in a plea to deviate from county policy that limits how many hours can be donated to someone else. “When Kim went through this before, she worked every day she could. Any time she could get out of bed, she was at work. She is one of the best employees in the department, and she’s got a real battle ahead of her.”

The county allowed other employees to pool their sick days and donate them to Alexander three years ago when she first fell ill. She was unavailable for comment last Friday.

County policy says an employee must have accumulated 240 hours of sick time before they can donate up to a maximum of 40 hours to someone with a “qualifying” illness. The ill employee must also have used up all their sick and vacation time — which Alexander has done — before dipping into what Human Resources Director Julie Swift called a “sick bank.”

Robbins acknowledged that what he was asking went “way, way beyond” the permissible limits, and confirmed that the foreman donating the hours knows he would not receive pay for those sick-pay hours if he gives them away.

County commissioners debated the legalities for a total of about an hour before unanimously approving an order allowing the donation.

Interim County Administrator John Hitt said he was a “little concerned” with the size of the contribution “but not enough to recommend the board vote no.” He also warned that in previous jobs, he has seen employees try to manipulate the system in hopes of getting others’ sick days donated to them.

“Most employees are well aware of those who abuse it,” noted Commissioner Sue Gold. “If I knew of someone doing that, I wouldn’t donate the time.”

“When Kim went through this before, she worked every day she could. Any time she could get out of bed, she was at work. She is one of the best employees in the department, and she’s got a real battle ahead of her.”

— Curry County Roadmaster Doug Robbins