HARTFORD — - A review of the city's employee incentive program, ordered after the mayor's chief of staff was paid an $11,450 bonus just before he left his job, recommends that such departing payments essentially be repaid by the employee.
David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, completed his review of the city's Exceptional Service Increment program last week. In a three-page report, Panagore said he found no instances of overpayment and verified that bonuses paid to city workers were made in accordance with policies.
But he also recommended some policy changes. Panagore suggested that anyone who gets a bonus payment within 90 days of separation from city service should have the amount of the bonus deducted from his or her final salary and benefits payment.
He also suggested the creation of a quarterly report to the city council and mayor about bonus payments, and that bonuses be paid over time, when possible, as opposed to a lump sum.
In August, Matthew Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff who earned $114,500 a year, announced that he would resign, effective Sept. 14. Perez gave him a 10 percent bonus as he prepared to leave.
The city later confirmed that Hennessy was the only city employee to have received such a bonus upon departure in the past three years, and one of only a handful in the past five years.
James Keaney, the mayor's director of capital projects, also got a noteworthy bonus payment. He was hired with an agreement that he would make an annual base salary of $150,000, and that he would also get an annual bonus of $15,000.
Panagore's recommendations did not directly address Keaney's situation. They do, however, say that the city should find ways to pay people "trapped up against salary cap rather than resort to" exceptional service awards.
Councilman Matt Ritter said the "devil is in the details" as the council prepares to take up the matter.
"The program is meant to incentivize people for good work and their continued good work for the city of Hartford," Ritter said. "That's what we're aiming to do."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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