Upshur County Commission votes on retirement issues

The Upshur County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to allow two elected officials and one former one to convert 120 days of accrued sick time toward their years of service for retirement purposes.

The commissioners, however, declined to approve the same request to Magistrate Mike Coffman, citing that Coffman left his county job as a deputy sheriff to take a role governed by the state.

The commissioners had discussed the issues for the past three weeks after former Sheriff Virgil Miller requested that his unused sick leave he had accrued during his time as a deputy in the 1980s be transferred to count toward his retirement. The policy which he believed allowed him to do so was first approved in 2008, but gave only 90 days from its inclusion in the policy manual or until being elected to public office to file the necessary paperwork.

“The policy was adopted in order to recognize the contribution that our employees and elected officials have given to this county and its citizens,” Commissioner Donnie Tenney read from his prepared statement.

“The policy in question was adopted in order to recognize the long hours and years of service the elected officials have given to this county and to benefit from not abusing the sick leave policy in place while employed by the county. This policy does not give a benefit to elected officials that is not available to our current full-time employees. This policy, in fact, leveled the playing filed for our elected officials who do not accrue sick leave, vacation time or other similar benefits in their elected positions.”

Commissioner JC Raffety had questioned if the policy had been formally approved in an open meeting of the county commision, or if it was merely a recommendation from the county’s Policy Board that commissioners allowed to be included in the employee’s manual.

The decision to convert the sick leave toward retirement was also approved for County Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong and for Assessor Helen Phillips. Both had previously been county employees prior to being elected to their offices.

Raffety, however, said he did not believe Coffman’s case “had ripened to the point where we need to make a decision.” Coffman was requesting that 66 days of accrued sick time he earned while serving as a deputy sheriff prior to his being elected magistrate be converted.