Anything wrong with a public employee making $500 per hour?

NOTE: FOURTH PAYSTUB RECEIVED. In response to the posted article below, ACTON FORUM has just received an email from Glenn Brand with a "corrected" paystub for May 14, which shows Huber-O'Connell received $18,236 in miscellaneous pay instead of $73k, bringing her "YTD" total to $67,473. Brand also explained that the Munis accounting system identifies "days" worked but calls them "hours" so the $492.89 would be the daily rate.

Brand does not explain how the previous two May 14 paystubs could have so many errors, why 10 days times $492.89 does not equal her gross pay, or what the misc. pay of $18,236 was for.

Since we still have no idea what is going on with this employee, the school's many paystub revisions, the reasons for so much secrecy, and what should now be obvious, that the School's stonewalling is producing many unintended consequences, we will leave the article below as originally written. But I have added a link at the end for the fourth paystub, the third revision for May 14, which is on page 5 of the document. --Allen.

Acton Forum has been investigating the payments to a former school administrator, Director of Pupil Services Elizabeth (Liza) Huber-O’Connell, who appears to have been paid for nearly an entire school year without having to perform any duties. When we made basic inquiries to the School administration to explain the circumstances of this unusual arrangement, we were told essentially to mind our own business. According to the School administration, how the School spends its funds should be of no concern to taxpayers. They believe public spending is a private matter, one between an employer (the public school system) and employees. And our elected School Committee must support this stance because this has been the School's position for over six months.

So we turned to our only available option to get answers, which was to request documents. One of our requests concerned the W-2s and paystubs for this former employee, who “retired” at the end of the previous school year (on June 30, 2015.) We got a paystub, heavily redacted, in February and another in May, 2015. We appealed the redactions to the Secretary of State’s Division of Public Records in May.

A few days ago, over three months after our appeal, the School’s attorney wrote a four-page response to our appeal, claiming that the redactions were all lawful and meant to protect the privacy of individual employees. We will let the state decide what is public information and what isn’t, but what was very interesting to us was they attached another copy of the May 2015 paystub with slightly different redactions. (This change was somehow not noted in the attorney’s letter, probably just an oversight.) Links to these records are at the end of this article.

In the revised paystub, we learned that Ms. Huber-O’Connell appears to have been working some hours during her absence. The payroll records shows 10 hours of work at $492.88 per hour.

That’s a nice rate of pay if you can get it, especially in the public sector. I’d bet that hourly rate is one of the highest on record, anywhere, for any Massachusetts government employee. If you annualize it, the hourly rate works out to over $1 million per year.

I guess using that yardstick, Acton’s next highest paid public employee, the Interim Director of Pupil Services, who is making around $200,000 in salary, pension and possibly benefits, is a bargain. Her 32-hour work-week works out to “only” about $120 per hour. Being the Director or Interim Director of Pupil Services must be a challenging position worthy of this level of compensation.

We won't bother trying to ask questions about what Ms. Huber-O'Connell was doing to earn nearly $500 per hour, but I'm sure it was very, very important. Or maybe there is some other reasonable explanation, but when the School's response to every question is "no comment," then we are only left with speculation. That, plus over $20,000 in legal costs the School has incurred through the end of July to avoid disclosure.

Huber’s May paystub also shows $73,089 in “Misc Pay” to date. We don't know what that is for, but maybe if the School agreed to release the severance/settlement agreement (which should also be public information, but the School won't give it up), we would find out.

So through May 14, 2015, Huber-O’Connell had earned $146,770, with another six weeks left in the school year. So it looks like she was paid more than just her salary. We estimate her annual salary was around $130,000, but we have asked for her last employment contract to confirm. We don’t know the full extent of the payments to her but we have also asked for a list of all 2014-2015 payments to her. (Her 2014-2015 employment contract is available here: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/huber-oconnell-employment-contrac...)

For a copy of the Feb. 2015 paystub and W-2, click here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/2_17_15_Request_for_Payroll_an...

For a copy of the first version of the May 2015 paystub, click here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/Paystub_051415.pdf

For a copy of the second version of the May 2015 paystub, click here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/DOC091015-011.pdf
(This version is on page five, after the four-page legal memo detailing why the School believes all the paystub redactions should be allowed.)

FOR THE THIRD VERSION OF THE MAY 2015 paystub, click here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/DOC091815-011.pdf
(This version was received after the original article was posted and contains significant revisions to the original paystub.)

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