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Jeffco sheriff leads effort to allow sick-day ‘donations’

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By AJ Vicens

The Jeffco Sheriff's Office is leading an effort to allow employees to donate unneeded sick time to co-workers who may need it.

Sheriff Ted Mink said a deputy had used a lot of his sick time while helping his wife through a trying health situation. Not long after that, the deputy was diagnosed with cancer himself, and had little sick time left.

Mink said the deputy should be fine and his treatment schedule can be managed, but the situation showed the need for a change in policy to let employees with more sick time than they need donate it to others.

"Some guys have 2,500 or 3,000 sick hours," Mink said. "They won't get paid for it when they quit or retire, so why not donate it?"

Mink said the proposal was floated at a recent meeting of the county's benefits and oversights committee and was met with a "lukewarm response."

"But this isn't a dead issue," Mink said, adding that his office is working with the county's human resources department to refine the policy and put a proposal before the county commission. Issues to be worked out include how much time an employee could donate to another, and setting a base for the number of sick hours an employee must maintain before considering a donation.

Mink said the proposal is "still a work in progress," and that more conversation needs to take place.

"There's always something we may not have thought of," Mink said.

Mink wants to present a fully developed plan to the county commission within a month.

Mink says he's talked to one of the county commissioners informally and is confident he can persuade a majority of the board to support the idea.

Commissioner Kathy Hartman said she's seen the proposal but needs to learn more before reaching a final decision. She said the county had a sick leave bank in the past but didn't know much about how it worked. She also stressed that the commissioners would need to proceed cautiously.

"It came up because of a specific situation," Hartman said. "That always makes me just a little bit nervous. That doesn't mean I think it's a bad idea. I just need to learn more."

Commissioner Faye Griffin said the idea represents "a really nice gesture, but I just don't understand why people can't apply for short-term disability."

The county once had a "sick bank" program in which employees could donate just eight hours of sick time to the bank and then could draw back as much as they needed. Griffin said the program wasn't administered properly, and employees took too much unearned sick time.

Commissioner Kevin McCasky was aware of the sheriff's proposal but wouldn't comment until County Administrator Jim Moore had a meeting with officials from the sheriff's office to discuss the idea.

Mink said that if he and his staff come up with a workable idea, they should be able to try it.

"If we're willing to take the lead on this, and at least do it within the sheriff's department, we should have the latitude to do that. What would be the argument against it?"

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.