Questions delay policy changes
BENTONVILLE — Benton County’s justices of the peace on Thursday tabled a list of personnel policy changes governing medical marijuana, a sick leave bank and other areas until the policies are reviewed by attorneys with the Association of Arkansas Counties.
The Committee of the Whole spent about 90 minutes debating the policy changes before voting to table the proposal.
“As I read through this more things start jumping out at me,” Pat Adams, justice of the peace for District 6, said in making the motion to table. “I think we ought to just table this until August so we can hear back from Rainwater, Holt and Sexton.”
The county will have to adopt some policy to accommodate the recently approved amendment allowing medical marijuana use and legislation implementing the amendment, Barb Ludwig, human resources administrator, told the committee. Ludwig said there are many legal questions about medical marijuana
and any policy the county adopts is likely to change.
“There’s a bunch of holes they’re just waiting for us to fall through,” Ludwig said.
Joel Jones, justice of the peace for District 7, said he sees conflicts between the amendment and the legislation.
“I don’t want us to be a test case,” Jones said.
The proposed sick leave bank, which allows employees to donate sick time to a bank for other employees to use, also generated questions.
Brent Meyers, justice of the peace for District 14, has opposed the idea since it was proposed earlier this year and said he continues to object to the idea. Meyers said the county will be paying more if the policy is adopted, since employees who don’t use sick time now aren’t paid but the county will pay for donated hours.
“We’re now paying for that unused sick time,” Meyers said.
Jones said he sees the sick
leave bank as another part of the employees’ benefits package.
“Sick leave is a benefit we provide employees,” Jones said. “The benefits package is a draw for the county when we continue to pay them less for most positions.”
Jones said all of the benefits have some cost and he expects the “cost” of a sick leave bank will be minimal.
“Every benefit we have is a ‘spend,’” Jones said. “We’re spending taxpayer dollars to hire and train and to keep them here. I look at it as another part of that benefits package”
Another area of the policy drawing questions was charging employees who leave their jobs after being sent for training at county expense for some part of the cost of the training. Adams said he wondered if the county could legally do that.
“Are we going to charge them out of their last paycheck,” Adams asked. “I just question the legality of it.”