If not settled, dispute over back pay heading to court

FRANKFORD – Barring some sort of advance settlement, an unresolved dispute between the town of Frankford and a former administrator over back pay is headed to court next month in Kent County.

Terry Truitt, who vacated the town administrator post in early September 2015 after more than 13 years of employment with the town, is seeking nearly $12,000 in unused vacation and sick time.

Ms. Truitt, who has rejected the town’s counter-offer of approximately $4,500, has retained Dover attorney Greg Morris of Liguori, Morris & Yiengst.

“I only want what was mine,” said Ms. Truitt.

The suit was filed Dec. 2. The case is scheduled for March 22 in Justice of the Peace Court No. 16 in Dover if not settled before then.

Frankford councilman Marty Presley publicly announced the suit at the Feb. 1 council meeting. Last week Mr. Presley said Ms. Truitt’s attorney had come back several weeks ago with an offer to settle in the neighborhood of $8,000.

Wednesday night, Frankford’s town council – Joanne Bacon, Mr. Presley, Pamela Davis, Greg Welch and Edward “Skip” Ash – addressed the litigation at a special meeting at town hall.

After coming out of executive session, Ms. Bacon announced that council took no action on the litigation, adding it would probably be addressed at the next monthly council meeting on March 7.

On her final day of employment with the town last September, Ms. Truitt said she left with two checks signed by authorized town council signees, Ms. Bacon and Ms. Davis. One check was for her regular pay and the other was for $7,000-plus in post-tax net pay for back pay.

According to Ms. Truitt she dropped the checks off at her bank, The Bank of Delmarva for deposit the next morning and later that day the bank called to inform her that Ms. Bacon had stopped payment on the check for her accrued back pay.

That sparked her legal challenge.

“I am not suing the town for damages. I am not suing the town for legal fees,” said Ms. Truitt. “I am not suing the town for anything other than what I had accrued on the books through the duration of my employment.”

Ms. Truitt noted her attorney’s compromise offer of about $8,000 would account for her additional legal fees – possibly $2,500 to $3,000 – that could be incurred should the lawsuit go to court.

The town’s approximate $4.500 counter-offer is based on language in Ms. Truitt’s contract, according to Mr. Presley.

“We figured out exactly she was owed per the policy, our town solicitor (Chad Lingenfelder) did, and it came up to be around $4,500 or $4,600. We offered to pay her that,” said Mr. Presley. “Of course she wasn’t happy with that and sued us. Then her attorney came back a couple of weeks ago and offered to settle for an amount I believe around $8,000.”

Ms. Truitt contends there was no contract.

“Neither myself nor any of the other employees were under a contract,” Ms. Truitt said. “There was no contract. I was never under contract, never.”

Ms. Truitt said the town has referenced what she terms an “antiquated” one-plus page employee benefits policy signed into effect in March 1998. Ms. Truitt claims, however, the town did not follow that benefits policy in dealing with other former employees who she says received back pay for accrued vacation/sick time upon ending employment with the town.

“When I use the word ‘antiquated’ I mean it sincerely, antiquated. You know you can’t pick and choose what parts you are going to adhere to and what parts you are not. They have been picking and choosing. That’s what they are referencing,” said Ms. Truitt. “I feel I am entitled to what I had earned. I had earned it and I didn’t get to take it (vacation) based on the fact that we were a very small town and there was no one else left there to manpower the town. I was accruing three weeks a year.”

Ms. Truitt further claims her accrued vacation/sick pay was on the books and included in audits undertaken annually by Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner, P.A.

“I am going to be honest; our auditors are there the first two weeks of August each and every year. Those figures were accurate and concise the first week in August,” Ms. Truitt said. “Auditors booked it every year as an accrued expense that the town would owe.”

“She is basically seeking the accumulation of all of her accrued sick time and vacation time dating back to the time that she was originally hired,” said Mr. Presley. “But the town’s policy on that has always been that you can accumulate a maximum of 12 days of sick time and your vacation time needs to be used by April of the following year. So it wasn’t allowed to be accumulated indefinitely.”

“They are making it sound like a fair, reasonable offer. What they are not disclosing is they are only offering me what I just earned in May,” said Ms. Truitt. “That’s not fair. What are you going to do with the other 13 years? Every year I rolled over maybe a week or two. It really smells.”

 

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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