That's sick

Long-time Washoe County Commissioners Bonnie Weber and David Humke earned recent headlines because they asked for a policy change that would let them collect a pile of accumulated sick pay—supposedly to the tune of around $10,000—when their terms end at the end of the year. Seeing as commissioners aren’t even full-time employees and don’t take sick leave, Humke and Weber’s request didn’t exactly tug at the heartstrings of their constituents or fellow board members. It may be unlawful, too.

“Because of the lack of accountability for hours or leave, approving sick leave could also amount to an illegal increase in compensation for commissioners,” deputy District Attorney David Watts-Vial wrote in a legal opinion obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Because … there is no reason to use sick leave … the commissioners would essentially be accumulating sick leave for the sole purpose of receiving a payout at the end of their career.”

This calls for some slow clapping, folks.

Per the RGJ’s coverage, a commissioner who skips meetings doesn’t get docked pay the way a sheriff, D.A. or other full-time official might, but neither is he or she compensated for unspent time off the way full-timers are. Granted, “time off” doesn’t really apply in this case.

“They don’t have regular work hours,” a county spokeswoman said of the commissioners, “because they’re elected.”

In other words, the sick-pay idea (which Weber proposed and Humke initially supported) looked like a backhanded way to cash out. It’s important to note, though, that Weber ultimately did the right thing. She slowed her roll by the time her suggestion showed up on the commission’s Dec. 9 agenda, apologizing to other commissioners and opting to drop the idea. She was also irked (or perhaps motivated?) by the RGJ’s mention of Watts-Vial’s opinion, and called his facts into question, though it’s the newspaper’s job to bring information to the public.

Anyway, county payroll records show that she and Humke each pull in close to $59,000 a year as commissioners. That shakes out to about $100,000 with benefits, according to the website Transparent Nevada,

Cry. Us. A. River.

The two are respectably compensated for their jobs as part-time public servants—and again, the modifier is “part-time.” They still have their day jobs, of course. He’s a tribal court judge and prosecutor, and she co-owns a family business.

Even the mere appearance of greed among public officials is off-putting. Always has been. That’s because—call us Captain Obvious, here—taxpayers cover the salaries of folks like county commissioners and the various other public officials who trade their time and perhaps their sanity to better our community.

Ten thousand free dollars may not feel like much to Weber or Humke, but it’s a lot to everyone else.