School Employees Could Get Thousands While On Paid Leave

2:12 PM, Jul 27, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - It may be hard to believe, but school employees that get suspended from their jobs for performance or legal issues, are left on the payroll until they have a hearing and an outcome is determined.

And in many cases that can takes months or even years. 2 On Your Side got a email to our tipline about one such instance.

Our tipster says they know a Buffalo teacher on administrative leave earning full pay, benefits, and retirement credits and that they, "feel this is a bigger crime than patronage jobs at the Erie County Water Authority," which has been a story 2 On Your Side has been reporting on for years.

The Buffalo School District won't release how many district employees are getting paid, while on leave for disciplinary reasons.

And the district won't release how much it's spending on these employees.

The district asked 2 On Your Side to file a Freedom of Information Act request, which we've done.

However, to give some insight into this issue, the State School Board's Association has been studying the problem.

"Any large institution or urban center is going to have more and more problems in this regard, because the more cumbersome the process is the larger the unit is, it's going to be hard to prove cases," said Jay Worona, general counsel for NYSSBA.

School employees can get what's called: 3020a hearings to deal with the case. From data released in 2008, NYSSBA says it takes on average 502 days for tenured school employees to have their cases settled. And that the cost per case on average is $216,000.

This is because the school district still has to pay the employee's salary, also the cost for a substitute, and the arbitrator to hear the case, plus the costs for any witnesses to testify.

"If you're looking at it from the standpoint of the taxpayer, then I would say that it is longer and more costly than a taxpayer would want, I think it's longer and more costly than it needs to be," said David Farmelo, an attorney, who practices school law.

A few major problems with the system entail that it takes months for all parties to agree on an arbitrator. NYSSBA calls for reforms to make the system easier by the state using hearing officers more to deal with cases and issuing a cap for how long the case should be heard.

School employees wouldn't get full pay if they're charged with certain felonies. NYSSBA is working on putting out an updated study on this issue, by sending surveys to school districts statewide to get their response. Buffalo Schools had no comment on the way they handle these cases.

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