Dukes County Manager Quits
Carol Borer Suddenly Leaves Post After Retirement Pay Package Dispute and Commitment to Serve in Transition
By JONATHAN BURKE
Staff arriving at work yesterday at the airport county administration office yesterday got a surprise - the office of Dukes County manager Carol Borer was empty and she was gone.
Mrs. Borer had announced plans to retire at year's end two months ago, but at that time she agreed to stay on as temporary manager and to assist in the transition to a successor.
Leslie Leland, chairman of the county commissioners, said yesterday that Mrs. Borer first told him of her plans to leave on Tuesday, and that he passed the news to his colleagues on the board. He said she submitted no formal letter of resignation to the board.
"She cleaned out her office of her personal belongings. That's it. She's not coming back," Mr. Leland said.
He said the scrutiny from the Dukes County finance advisory board and a few of the commissioners over a vacation and sick day payment had alienated Mrs. Borer.
"In view of the past couple of weeks, with everything going on, I guess you can only take so much, so much bashing. That's the way she feels about it," said Mr. Leland.
Mrs. Borer acknowledged the recent controversy over her requested pay, but she attributed her decision to the lack of any funds in the budget for a temporary county manager.
"I offered to continue as an interim county manager. Without paying me a salary to do that, I cannot perform that function. For well over five years, I've put my sweat and my tears in that job, and what's occurred over the past few weeks I feel is unfair," Mrs. Borer told the Gazette yesterday.
"On Dec. 31, I retired. Beginning Jan. 1, there was no money in the budget for me to continue working on a temporary basis. So without money, I'm not working," she added.
Mr. Leland said funds would have been available. "There are funds there that are left over from her pay that were to be transferred for contract labor. There's money there for that," he said.
County commissioners were divided on their assessments of Mrs. Borer's abrupt departure. Robert Sawyer, who had been critical of Mrs. Borer's behavior in connection with her vacation and sick day pay, saw a bad situation getting worse.
"My reaction is that it is just another element of a tragic situation. The fact that she would walk out and not deal head-on with these issues. However, nobody is indispensable. The county will survive and thrive. So be it. We'll deal with it," he said.
"I was a little surprised to hear it. There wasn't any particular notification given to us, and I'm sorry to see things end in that manner. But we'll have to move on," said John Alley. Mr. Alley and Mr. Sawyer were the minority in a 4-2 vote by the county commission two weeks ago backing a supplemental budget that included Mrs. Borer's vacation and sick day pay and funded the temporary help line item.
Commissioners Leonard Jason and Mr. Leland, who had endorsed Mrs. Borer's pay request, remained supportive.
"I don't know if I'd want to serve with people who treated me like that," he said.
"She's worked hard, whether you agree with her 100 per cent of the time. She's done a lot for this county. She's kept us financially sound, done a lot of programs. I don't think she deserved to be treated this way," said Mr. Leland. Mr. Leland said he was "surprised and disappointed" that Mrs. Borer was not staying on as had been planned in November.
On Monday night, the Dukes County finance advisory board voted to approve the county's supplemental budget with exception of the first three line items, which moved $40,791.50 from Mrs. Borer's salary line to the temporary help line ($18,000) and the vacation and sick pay line ($22,792).
In fact, the disputed payments to Mrs. Borer had already been approved by Mr. Leland and paid to her by county treasurer Noreen Flanders. Advisory board members and three of Mr. Leland's colleagues on the county commission expressed surprise and frustration at this news Monday night.
One of the county commissioners who originally supported the payments, Roger Wey of Oak Bluffs, referred back to the commissioners' vote on Mrs. Borer's severance package. "With what I've learned since the vote, I would not have voted for it," Mr. Wey said.
"It would not have passed if Roger voted differently," said Mr. Sawyer.
Tristan Israel led off the advisory board's discussion. "There's a lot of questions being asked by a lot of people," he said.
"I think there's something wrong with the process. . . . It seems to me it should not have been paid until such time as the advisory board approves it," said Ted Morgan, chairman of the board.
Richard Combra said he was disturbed by the news. He added that it was his belief that much of the vacation time, accrued through the use of compensatory hours, was not appropriate in the first place.
"Lacking a written agreement, there is reason for me to believe that the comp time should not have been accumulated and compensated for," he said.
Mrs. Borer has maintained that over the last five years, she has taken 16 days off but accrued "80-something days of compensatory time." She said compensatory time is essentially overtime hours, for which she does not receive pay as a salaried employee.
Though there is no written policy, she said the practice is to utilize compensatory hours as time off. She said she used 16 of her accrued compensatory days as her vacation days, and then asked to be paid for her accumulated vacation and sick days.
"That payment is legally due me," she said.
Another question that arose during the meeting was any lack of oversight on Mrs. Borer's timekeeping.
Marsha Smolev, executive assistant to the county manager, said, "I was told not to keep track of the county manager's vacation. . . . I gave Carol blank sheets and I must say I am very disturbed by it." Ms. Smolev said she tracks the rest of the employees' vacation time.
The advisory board members voted unanimously to send the first three line items on the supplemental budget back to the county commission for further consideration and legal review. Mr. Morgan requested that the county come back with a unanimous recommendation.
"Are you going to ask her for a check for the difference?" asked Mr. Jason, who was Mrs. Borer's most vocal supporter at Monday's meeting.
"She took 16 some-odd days. It seems to me that's fair. I think we treated her fairly, and I think you guys should treat her fairly," he said.