Monday, September 28th, 2009 at 9:00am

Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner Team Up with Ritchie to Attack the Unemployed!

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Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner
Team Up with Ritchie to Attack the Unemployed!
September 28, 2009 

     In Sunday’s edition of The Orlando Sentinel, Lauren Ritchie wrote a piece quoting Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner suggesting that Lake County employees who were asked to accept voluntarily layoffs were doing something wrong to seek unemployment benefits.  In an effort to reduce headcount, Lake County sought people who would take an early buyout to reduce headcount; make no doubt about it – these moves were part of a reduction in force.  Now, Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner together with Lauren Ritchie are trying to make out like Cindy Hall was cheating the taxpayers and that the employees did something wrong, when in actuality they were following standard ethical employment practices.

Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C. has a real history of being tough on County Manager, Cindy Hall, but this situation shows the blatant insensitivity of these County Commissioners.  Over the last year, private sector companies have been forced to downsize by laying off employees or seeking those who can take an early buyout.  In either case, the action of the employee leaving is driven by the employer.  As a result, in 90%+ of all cases in the private sector the employee is awarded unemployment compensation.  Employers pay unemployment tax for this reason.

The real question is why are Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner as well as Ritchie attacking working people who have just lost their jobs?  Darn, we are paying Lake County Commissioners $85,000 a year, plus perks, and none of them have a right denigrating the hard work and sacrifices county workers are making.  It is because of their mismanagement that any layoffs must occur, and to attack working people who are trying to cope and do the right thing is simply wrong.

How can Linda Stewart talk about double dipping when she is taking retirement pay as a teacher and remains on the dole with her $85,000 per year salary?  That is the pot calling the kettle black.  Do these County Commissioners expect the working people of Lake County to treat them as their lords and masters?  Shame on them for trying to deny working people what is due them.

Why are Lauren Ritchie and The Orlando Sentinel hurting those who worked for Lake County?  We are sure everyone who has been laid off or released early from The Orlando Sentinel since their bankruptcy was declared has drawn unemployment.  What is the difference?

Finally, if these Commissioners want to fire County Manager, Cindy Hall, then do it.  Any business person who has ever had employees knows that Renick, Stewart and Conner are trying to trump up reasons to let her go.  Trying to blame a county official for the failures of their policies is par for this bunch of out of touch, uninformed Commissioners.

Politicians can’t understand why people are getting so mad with government.  Then, you a have a situation such as this wherein rich politicians living in large, comfortable homes are denying a poor working man or woman a measly $300 a week in unemployment benefits.  Lake County workers deserve better and we appreciate their hard work and sacrifice, so don’t believe that these three Commissioners, Lauren Ritchie, and The Orlando Sentinel represent the feeling of everyone in Lake County.

For a great explanation of the entire matter see, Cindy Hall’s letter that she sent to the Commissioners over ten days ago.  This makes the assault on working people look even worse in the light of this explanation.  The question needs to be asked, “Why do Commissioners Renick, Stewart, and Conner along with their buddies at The Orlando Sentinel hate the working people of Lake County government?”  Let us know what you think by leaving a comment at www.lakecountygov.info.

From: Hall, Cindy
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 10:15 AM
To: Board Office
Cc: ‘Connerjc@aol.com’; Minkoff, Sandy; Wall, Sharon
Subject: Unemployment questions

Commissioners, let me clarify some of the information related to unemployment requests of the voluntary early out participants.  The program that the Board approved offered incentives for employees to separate from the County.  It was our goal to attract as many as seemed doable in an effort to reduce the number of employees we would ultimately need to layoff.  We gave ourselves the flexibility to limit the number of participants since we did not have control of what County operations they would be coming from.  The goal was to downsize. 

Our current involuntary layoff policy includes a severance package.  If appropriate we have also offered some administrative leave and resulting medical insurance in accordance with our procedures.  We would expect to pay unemployment for laid off employees. 

In order to attract employees to voluntarily separate from the County, we needed to sweeten that pot.  So we added to the severance package and the medical insurance portion.  Since we had enhanced the package, we only offered the benefit to long term employees.  One of the requirements was that a participant would not be eligible for rehire for one year.  We did not require that they retire.  The goal was to reduce head count.  The estimate of annual savings that was provided to the Board ($650,000) included the assumption of unemployment payments in event the employees were eligible for unemployment. 

For any unemployment claims that we received from the State, we have stated:  “Due to downsizing of Lake County government,  xx employee elected to participate in the Early Out Program.”  It is the State’s prerogative to determine if the employee qualifies.  We did not contest if the State’s determination of benefit was positive.  It is my understanding that most have been denied. 

I hope this clarifies this action.

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