LAWRENCE — The city is refusing to pay former employee Thomas Schiavone's request for $75,087 in accrued vacation and sick time, saying he failed to properly account for "considerable" time he spent playing golf and attending to personal business.
The city also argues that Schiavone, the acting chief economic development director under former Mayor Michael Sullivan, was not a "permanent" city employee and thus is not entitled to payment for accrued vacation, sick and personal time.
The city's reasons for denying Schiavone's accrual pay request were outlined in Assistant City Attorney Anne Randazzo's written response to a complaint Schiavone filed with Attorney General Martha Coakley's office.
Schiavone, who started working for the city in 1999, made $86,400 last year. He left City Hall on Jan. 4 when Sullivan's second and final term as mayor ended.
After new Mayor William Lantigua balked at the accrual pay request, Schiavone filed a complaint with Coakley's fair labor division for non-payment of wages on Jan. 22.
Reached last week, Schiavone described the city's response to his complaint as "ridiculous" and said it smacks of the "fixation Lantigua and his cronies have with former Mayor Sullivan and his staff. It's very disturbing."
Others waiting for accrual payments are Mark Andrews, former budget and finance director, Nora Carroll, who served as Sullivan's chief of staff, and Barney Reilly, who retired in January as the senior center director.
Former fire Chief Peter Takvorian and five retiring firefighters were also owed accrued time and were paid by the city earlier this year. Money for the accrual payments was included in the Fire Department budget.
Payments to the others are being withheld until a bill allowing the city to borrow $35 million to balance its budget is approved by the state Legislature, said Leonard Degnan, Lantigua's chief of staff. The city currently has a $24.5 million deficit and a $15 million shortfall is predicted for next year.
The House approved the bill on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to vote sometime this week.
"Once we resolve the financial issues, there is still the issue of who is and isn't owed this money," Degnan said.
But Schiavone, Degnan said, "was a temporary employee," and the city doesn't have to pay him for accrued time.
Randazzo, in her letter to the AG, said that personal time for city employees cannot be carried over year to year. Also, "accruals of vacation and sick time are granted only to permanent, full-time employees," she wrote, citing the city's charter.
In his complaint, Randazzo said Schiavone admitted he was a not a permanent employee and that his position was "co-terminus with that of the Mayor of the City of Lawrence."
The city charter also specifies the chief economic development director "shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor," she wrote.
Randazzo also said Schiavone's appointment as a permanent chief economic development director was "resoundingly rejected by the Lawrence City Council in 2009." And any payment Schiavone claims he is owed was never properly budgeted and there are no funds to pay him.
"Lawrence is prohibited from expending funds in excess of the appropriated amount," Randazzo wrote.
Finally, Randazzo said the city disputes Schiavone's accounting of his "used and accumulated sick and vacation time," saying he spent "considerable time at golf tournaments and on golf outings during the past year with a city vendor. There were additional days when Mr. Schiavone was away from City Hall on personal business and obligations."
She said Schiavone must provide officials a full accounting of the sick, personal, vacation and compensatory time he took or accumulated.
Then, the city "must diligently review his accounting and interview those informants who possess information concerning his absences from work," Randazzo wrote.
Schiavone vowed to get the money, but would not say if he intends to file a lawsuit against the city.
He did say he found it "interesting" that the city attorney's office moved so quickly to respond to his complaint, while other grievances, including those that cast Lantigua and his supporters in a "negative light sit collecting dust."
Schiavone added that "it's shameful the Lantigua administration can argue that there's no money to pay the employees who have recently left service with the city of Lawrence, yet he had no problem using an excessive amount of funds to decorate his office."
"I worked directly out of that office for over seven years," he said. "I can assure you very little improvement was needed."
Schiavone was initially hired in 1999 by then-Mayor Patricia Dowling. He worked as a neighborhood planner, Dowling's chief of staff, and chief economic development director. When Sullivan was elected in 2002, he kept Schiavone on board at City Hall.
Former City Council President Patrick Blanchette was named Lantigua's interim chief economic development director.
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.