Austin paid $2.1 million last year in unused sick leave to 40 departing officers, including one who received nearly $100,000, through a negotiated practice that has cost millions in recent years, an Austin American-Statesman analysis of payroll records found. Four officers who resigned or retired in 2008 walked away with sick time checks of $85,000 or more, and that among the 40 who left with remaining sick time, the average payout was $53,500. The payout system for sick time, which experts say is highly unusual among private businesses because of the cost, is the result of a long-standing agreement between the city and the police union that also has made Austin officers the state’s highest-paid.
Police union officials say their practice encourages officers to report to duty – not call in sick – in the twilight of their careers. “I came to work sick a lot of the time,” said retired Cmdr. Duane McNeill, who received more than $85,000 in unused sick time pay last year. “I just think you ought to reward people for coming in all those years.”