Long-Time City Employee, Robert Mack, Put on Unpaid Leave
Robert Mack, who began working for the City of Lexington on August 8, 1994, almost 19 years ago, suffered a stroke on March 27 of this year. Robert was in intensive care at Scott and White ICU for three days and in the hospital for another seven days before spending two weeks in rehab. It’s been a long recovery for Robert, and it’s not over yet.
Robert received a full pay check each month from the City since his stroke, receiving his last check on June 21. These funds were the accumulation of his earned sick and vacation pay from his years of service to the City.
Robert has operated most of the heavy machinery for the City, including backhoes, bucket trucks and track hoes. His job description includes replacing electric fuses on utility poles, repairing and replacing sewer lines, road repair, and more. He has been an unofficial ambassador for the City, greeting most residents by name when he saw them on the street or when they came into City Hall when he was there.
Under direct advice of legal counsel, the City Council, in their July 10 meeting, (the minutes of which are found on page A2 of today’s paper), voted to place Robert on leave, without pay, for 180 days, retroactive, beginning June 7, but to continue paying his insurance for that period of time.
The minutes state, “Tim Brown made the motion that the City Council find that, in considering the circumstances of Robert Mack’s disability, the City is unable to make a reasonable accommodation for Robert Mack’s disability, and any such accommodation for Robert Mack would place an undue hardship on the City’s operations. Opal Lewis seconded the motion. Vote 5 for.”
“Opal Lewis made the motion that Robert Mack be placed on leave without pay, for up to 180 days from June 7, 2013, and that the City continue to pay for his medical insurance for such a time, and that he be advised that it would place an undue hardship on the City to keep his position open, and that no position with the City is currently available which he could perform with reasonable accommodation by the City, and that Robert Mack be advised that his position with the City may not be available in the future. Tim Brown seconded the motion. Vote 5 for.”
Robert presented the City with a note from one of his doctors affiliated with Little River Healthcare in Rockdale, dated June 27, stating that he was released to return to work for light duty.
According to City records, his Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor, Richard E. Scott, Jr. DO, from Scott and White, on the other hand, has not released him and would not know anything about Robert’s ability to return to work until after September 30, which would be six months from the time of Robert’s stroke.
The City’s contention is that they do not have a “light duty” job for Robert and would have to create such a job, which would set a precedent that is not covered in the Employee Handbook. Then there would be the question of what salary the newly created job would pay and how long it would last.
In the meantime, on July 17 in a special called meeting, the City hired Cameron Wagner to take Robert’s job. The City has been hiring contract workers to cover Robert’s job since the end of March.
The city says that Robert can draw some portion of his retirement at this time. They also say they have counseled him in different options for receiving financial assistance. At this point, there are more questions than answers for Robert. As with most of us, Robert needs assistance as to know where to go first, and how to navigate the sea of paperwork that will get him the financial aid that he needs. The City is sending him a written copy of options and phone numbers to contact. Several people have offered to help him navigate the paperwork.
The one thing we do know about this town is that it has a great heart and it will take care of its own.