When Santa Ana City Manager Dave Ream retired in 2011, more than a few eyebrows were raised over the $230,366 he was paid for unused time off. Documents recently obtained by Voice of OC, however, show that he was actually paid more than $364,000.
Ream’s new total, which tops a list of large payments for unused time off by high-ranking city officials, includes nearly $135,000 in unused sick leave that was not included when the city first disclosed Ream’s payoff in March 2011 after a Voice of OC Public Records Act request.
According to city spokesperson Jose Gonzalez, at the time Voice of OC first requested a record of Ream’s payout, the longtime city manager had decided to apply his 1,066 hours of sick leave toward his public employee retirement account with CalPERS. But apparently Ream later changed his mind.
“Therefore, the information you received in both instances was correct based on the timing of your public records inquiry,” Gonzalez wrote in an email to Voice of OC.
Ream’s payment came after the city gave a controversial $191,000 payment to former City Attorney Joe Fletcher. Fletcher had collected that amount in unused vacation, holiday and sick leave through unusual clauses in his employment contract that allowed him to accrue time as if he had been hired 13 years prior to his actual hiring date.
A group of Latino activists, outraged by the payment and the contract provision, called it a gift of public funds and demanded an Orange County grand jury investigation of the arrangement. The grand jury never launched an investigation.
As it turns out, the checks given to Fletcher and Ream were the first in a string of large payments to high-level city officials who either retired or resigned their posts. The total sum is more than $1 million so far.
In February, Paul Walters — ousted as city manager during a power struggle between longtime Mayor Miguel Pulido and City Council members — negotiated an exit agreement that granted him nearly $168,000 in unused time off to be paid in four installments.
Shortly after Walters retired, one of his close confidants, Executive Inspector Hank Couisine, retired and redeemed more than $185,000 in unused vacation leave. Walters had granted special waivers to Couisine so he could accrue more than 1,000 hours more than the maximum vacation accrual set out in the police officers labor contract.
The payment to Couisine is part of an ongoing city attorney’s investigation into possible corruption surrounding the retired police officer.