So Long, And Thanks For All The Cash

$187,298. That’s the new total for how much former-Governor Bill Owens shelled out to staff members as pay bonuses. And lawmakers are not very happy about it.

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Former Gov. Bill Owens allowed his top appointees to build up unlimited sick leave and vacation that resulted in hefty severance checks when they resigned.

Owens’ executive directors received payouts totaling roughly a half-million dollars.

According to the article, former Democratic Governor Roy Romer, did not partake in such rewards. Although the practice isn’t illegal either.

“A half-million dollars walked out the door,” said Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, the JBC’s vice chairman. “JBC is more than upset. We’re very, very unhappy about it.”

Top state officials and state workers are allowed to collect lump-sum payments for unused sick leave and vacation. But regular state employees are capped at 360 hours.

The bonuses Owens handed out were legal – there is no law limiting the amount of sick and vacation time top government officials are allowed to accumulate.

State law also is silent on bonuses, but historically they have not been given to Cabinet members.

But what are the bonuses for?

As the blog Think Outside The Cage points out, Joe Ortiz, the former executive director of prisons, doesn’t have the cleanest success record.

In 2005, a state auditor’s report (PDF) found that the Department of Corrections (DOC) did not adequately monitor medical clinics that were being operated by local privatized prisons-a fact which “potentially contributed” to the death of two inmates.

The executive director is in charge of overseeing private prisons in Colorado.

The audit also found that five private medical clinics were not licensed by the Department of Public Health and Environment, which is required by law. The Department of Corrections had been aware of that fact since 2002, according to the report.

Ortiz received a total $19,923, when sick time and unused vacation days are added to the equation.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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