BEREA, Ohio — The new director of the Ohio Turnpike says its policies for payouts to employees are too generous and must change.
The toll road’s chief engineer was among 29 workers who cashed out $20,000 or more in unused sick and vacation pay upon retiring last year, when the turnpike paid out $1.43 million in separation pay, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Chief Engineer Dan Castrigano retired after 30 years with the turnpike with $287,000 in pay, including an $111,000 separation payment.
Turnpike officials praised Mr. Castrigano’s job performance and said he simply collected what he was owed under existing turnpike policies.
But Executive Director Richard Hodges said he was “stunned” by the amounts of unused sick and vacation pay turnpike workers can accumulate and then cash out.
“Vacation is for folks to recharge,” Mr. Hodges said. “Sick time is for people who need it. They are not intended to be retirement plans.”
Pay and benefits make up the biggest chunk of the turnpike’s operating costs, which are covered entirely by its revenue. Drivers paid $232 million in tolls last year.
The turnpike is under review by Gov. John Kasich’s administration, with an eye toward possibly leasing the road.
The turnpike’s gross wages totaled $57 million for 2011, nearly $5.8 million less than 2010, with most of the savings coming from the elimination of toll collector jobs as the turnpike turns increasingly to automated fare collection, according to the newspaper.
Payroll records showed that Mr. Castrigano earned the most of any turnpike worker last year, more than doubling his base pay of $134,884 and that he cashed out hundreds of hours of unused sick and vacation time.
Turnpike workers are allowed to cash out unused sick and vacation time each year or let the hours accumulate to certain limits before cashing them.
Mr. Castrigano, whose duties included managing 500 workers and overseeing road improvements averaging about $80 million a year, said his payment followed turnpike policies.
“I’m one of the higher-paid employees and I didn’t use a lot of my sick time,” Mr. Castrigano said.
He said payouts on unused sick and vacation leave “are not an uncommon practice in the public sector” and that while the turnpike’s compensation may be more generous in some ways than other public agencies, it may be less generous in other ways.
Mr. Hodges said he’ll study state agencies’ policies before recommending changes to the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
He said he wouldn’t criticize Mr. Castrigano for what was “offered to him and every other employee under policies established decades ago,” but does have concerns about the system that created the policies.
The head of Teamsters Union Local 436, which represents most turnpike workers, said the pay policies resulted from give-and-take.