Water Board looks foolish

The Johnstown Water Board appears foolish and irresponsible after agreeing to a contract that provided more than $18,000 in buyouts to its clerk.

This is the type of problem that may cause the majority of voters in the city of Johnstown to get rid of the independent Water Board on Nov. 3 when they vote on proposed changes to the city charter.

City Treasurer Mike Gifford recently explained he was compelled to write Water Board Clerk Cinda Spraker a check for her unused vacation and sick time because of the terms of Spraker’s new one-year contract.

Spraker said when she signed her contract Sept. 10, she had accumulated 942 hours of unused vacation and sick time going back to the start of her full-time employment Nov. 10, 2003.

Water Board President Nicholas Cannizzo said he didn’t realize the contract included the provision for a buyout. He said the Water Board was blindsided by the size of the payout to Spraker. Cannizzo said the Water Board would not have agreed to the buyout if members realized how much money it would cost.

To make matters more complicated, Gifford and Cannizzo disagree about what exactly happened before Spraker’s new contract was agreed to. Cannizzo said Gifford was asked how much sick time and vacation time Spraker had accumulated, and Gifford never provided the information. Gifford said he was never asked to provide that information.

Gifford was correct to pay the money; it was the only legal choice he had, given Spraker’s contract.

As far as the Water Board is concerned, why would they agree to something if they didn’t know how much it was going to cost?

Making the situation worse, this issue was only raised because the Water Board allegedly wanted to clarify she is its employee; not the city’s.

Although the clerk of the Water Board has not typically been an employee with a contract, Spraker said the Water Board required her to sign a one-year contract as a condition of her reappointment in December 2014 in order to clarify she is an employee of the board and not a city employee subject to the city employee handbook.

On top of all of this, Cannizzo said he doesn’t know why the buyback provision was included in her one-year contract, and he isn’t sure who wrote the contract.

This matter does not inspire us to have a great deal of confidence in the Johnstown Water Board. It seems like the board cost water users $18,600 because it got upset over a minor issue. Now that it has to pay, Gifford is being blamed, but the board ultimately agreed to the deal.

We suggest – whoever winds up in charge – they stop giving buybacks for sick time.

Sick time is meant for those who are ill; offering buybacks is also an invitation to have sick employees come to work, and then make other employees – and customers – sick.