PARIS — Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright mishandled the resignation of a former sheriff’s deputy, according to the county’s human resources director, forcing the commission to pay out $3,701 in accumulated sick leave that should have been paid when the deputy resigned.

Commissioners also learned that the deputy did not date his resignation himself, but that it appeared to be edited and was dated by Wainwright.

Annalee Rosenblatt presented a memo to Oxford County commissioners explaining how the sheriff mishandled the May resignation of Christopher Davis, an issue that came to light after the Teamsters Union filed a grievance on Davis’ behalf.

The grievance, filed with the county in September, asked that Davis be paid for earned sick leave time owed to him when he left the job. The commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to pay the accumulated sick leave, and discussed what Rosenblatt defined as the “unconventional” handling of Davis’ departure.

In a letter dated Aug. 21, County Administrator Tom Winsor informed Davis that he would not be paid his accumulated sick leave because he did not give his resignation to the county in a “timely fashion.”

However, Rosenblatt found that Davis did give proper notice of his resignation, but that his resignation was handled improperly by the sheriff in a way she described as “inconsistent with the standing practices of the county and under the collective bargaining agreement.”

According to Rosenblatt, “the unconventional handling of this ‘retirement’/resignation by Sheriff Wainwright resulted in Mr. Davis not being paid out of his sick leave accumulation. As a result of this, the required exit interview and off-boarding of Davis did not occur until after he had severed his employment with the County, therefore the issues of benefits and payout could not be discussed with him in advance of his leaving employment.”

The county’s longstanding procedure for handling resignations has been to have a letter of resignation from the department head in hand, or forwarded to the commissioners the day it is received.

According to Rosenblatt’s memo, over a period of several commission meetings, Wainwright mentioned that Davis would be resigning although Wainwright never produced a specific date of the resignation or a resignation letter.

Davis’ resignation was noted on the agenda for a July 8 commission meeting, and Wainwright requested commissioners take action on the resignation.

But, on July 8, no letter of resignation had been given to the commission and commissioners took no action until later that afternoon when Wainwright produced the letter. Although commissioners questioned the validity of the letter since dates had been whited out and changed, Davis’ resignation was accepted.

During a grievance hearing on Oct. 11, Davis told commissioners that he informed Wainwright of his plans to leave when the two men were sitting in Wainwright’s truck. Davis could not remember the date; Wainwright said it was May 25 or 26.

According to Rosenblatt’s findings, Davis told Wainwright he wanted to resign sooner, but Wainwright told him to “wait and think it over.”

Davis wrote his retirement letter while sitting in Wainwright’s truck, but left it undated and gave no effective date of resignation at Wainwright’s direction, Rosenblatt found. Davis finalized his decision on May 29, after he had given the undated retirement letter to Wainwright.

In a Freedom of Access Act request filed by the Advertiser Democrat on July 5, the newspaper requested “all letters of resignation from sheriff’s office employees who resigned between Jan. 1, 2019, and June 5, 2019.”

Although the newspaper received some documents as a result of that request, Davis’ retirement letter was not provided. The Advertiser Democrat submitted a second FOAA request on July 17 specifically asking for documents related to Davis’ resignation, but no documents were provided.

According to Rosenblatt’s memo, “When asked by the Commissioner’s office to provide the information being requested to them in these FOAA requests, the Sheriff did not provide the letter he was given by Davis on May 25 or 26, nor did he produce the May 29 goodbye email sent by Davis.”

Davis’ resignation letter and other documents were provided to the Advertiser Democrat on Oct. 4.

According to an electronic communications report turned over as a result of the FOAA request, Davis sent a “night briefing” to Sgt. Timothy Ontengco on May 24 indicating that he “gave his notice” and wouldn’t “be around soon.”

In a May 29 email with the subject line “Goodbye,” Davis indicated that he “had decided to get done” and that his “last shift on the road would be Tuesday (June 4).”

The email was sent by Davis to his co-workers, and included Wainwright.

According to Rosenblatt, when Davis decided to resign he checked his sick leave status and made his last day coincide with the date he was scheduled to run out of leave, which was June 4. He then gave verbal permission to Wainwright to add the effective date of the retirement to the letter, which was then dated June 18. Commissioners didn’t see a copy of that letter until July 8.

Soon after receiving the resignation letter, Winsor advised Davis that the county was not going to pay him accrued sick leave because “he did not resign in good standing.”

According to the memo, the commissioners were “merely performing their due diligence in safeguarding taxpayer money and to assure the collective bargaining agreement is being adhered to as well as making sure that the payout due Mr. Davis under the collective bargaining agreement was properly paid.”

According to Rosenblatt’s memo, “The manner in which this resignation was handled by the Sheriff was inconsistent with the standing practices of the County and under the collective bargaining agreement. Further, it was very confusing and caused the Commissioners to question the process. In fact, it was not Davis who gave notice to the Commissioners as to its effective date, it was the Sheriff acting in Davis’ stead.”

Rosenblatt concluded that, “From the evidence provided it appears that Mr. Davis believed he had given the notice required … he may have been somewhat mislead by the information provided to him by Sheriff Wainwright. It appears a gross miscommunication occurred between Sheriff Wainwright and the Commissioners, which caused confusion about whether Davis had given the notice required by the collective bargaining agreement.”

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