By Frank Lewis
Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen will not receive the extra week’s vacation he asked Portsmouth City Council for.
When Allen took the job his contract called for him to have two week’s vacation, because he had a pre-scheduled trip to Honduras where he was doing community work. Since returning, Allen has been working long hours attempting to reach his 11 goals which deal with the city’s deficit budget, and now feels he needs a break. Allen said when he expressed his exhaustion to then-Acting Mayor Kevin W. Johnson, that Johnson offered him additional two weeks of vacation time.
On Monday night, Allen stressed that he had not asked for the vacation, but since it was offered by Johnson, he was going to accept the offer, and asked City Council to approve it by amending his contract to reflect the additional vacation time.
“I had the discussion when I was Acting Mayor/Acting president,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained in a previous position as a CFO of a start-up software company in San Jose, California, he headed up a committee responsible for compensation, and when they hired a CEO or other top level executive, it was important to watch out for the health of that individual. He said they would often offer additional vacation time in lieu of paying for the long hours those executives worked beyond the normal 40 hours.
Johnson said his preference was to authorize the extra time off as opposed to amending the contract. He also mentioned Key Man insurance as something to consider. Key Man insurance would cover some of the expenses should the key man, in this case, Allen leave, be unable to perform his duties, or pass away.
“The city manager is doing a good job but I don’t think this is the time, after six months, to be offering additional vacations when we’re looking at all others to take concessions,” Acting Mayor Jim Kalb said. “I don’t think that would set well with the public or the employees.”
“Please don’t take offense. First of all I remember a letter that came out a few weeks ago reiterating the point that the city manager works for all of us,” Fifth Ward City Councilman Gene Meadows said. “So, no offense to Councilman Johnson, but he didn’t have the authority to make the offer to begin with. Secondly, this is not the route to go about getting this. This should have been done in executive session perhaps dealing with personnel matters if you’re having some time issues, stress issues - those things happen, but third, to go along with what Councilman Kalb said, you’ve (Allen) been here six months. Let’s see, how many days have I had for vacation in the last year? a week. Granted I work for myself, so that’s my own doing but people work. You work a lot of hours. It happens. This is not the right time to go about this.”
Meadows said Council wrote the contract and Allen signed it.
“I didn’t ask for this,” Allen said. “It was offered.”
After further discussion, Council defeated the attempt to add vacation days to their agreement with Allen.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.