EDITORIAL: Don't be cruel, supervisors

Fresno County board needs second look at cap on sick-leave donations.

May 31, 2014 

Fresno County juvenile corrections officer Roland Muniz at home with his wife, Morgan, children, Kaleb, 6, and Gracie, 3. Roland is being treated for testicular cancer and his fellow workers are donating sick time. But Fresno County supervisors voted to begin limiting sick time donations retroactive to April 28, the first day of Muniz's first of four rounds of chemotherapy.


Someone needs to remind the Fresno County Board of Supervisors that the purpose of government is to help and protect people.

Apparently, a majority of the board has forgotten this fact. We say this because there is no other rational explanation for the supervisors' April decision to limit donations of sick leave among county employees to 80 or 120 hours, depending upon the bargaining unit.

The reason given for the cap -- which was approved by Supervisors Andreas Borgeas, Phil Larson, Judy Case McNairy and Debbie Poochigian -- was that some employees were abusing the sick leave donation program.

In a May 20 story, The Bee's Marc Benjamin reported that some supervisors cited a case in which an employee off the job for three years raised his retirement income by 9% thanks to sick leave donated by others.

Reacting in a fashion that sadly is typical of this particular board, four supervisors took a meat cleaver to a problem that should have been handled with surgical precision.

In many ways, this overreaction was similar to the board's draconian approach to regulating medical marijuana.

Instead of adopting sensible regulations and focusing corrective actions on the people who grow marijuana for street sales and interstate distribution, they punished responsible individuals who rely on medical pot to cope with chronic pain.

It's never a good idea to make policy based on the actions of a few conniving individuals, but that's exactly what the board has done with its outright ban on growing medical marijuana and its cap on donated sick leave.

Apparently, a majority of supervisors are confusing tough talk and tough actions with leadership. It's past time for the chest puffing to end.

County employees suffering through catastrophic illnesses and injuries need all the support they can enlist. And their families need regular paychecks during challenging times. Moreover, county employees who donate sick leave are to be commended for their compassion.

Supervisor Henry R. Perea was the lone vote against the capping of sick leave donations. He says that county managers already have tools at their disposal to prevent abuses.

But if the other supervisors believe that additional steps must be taken, they should take the time to listen to suggestions from county managers and employees, and adopt a plan that protects both employees and taxpayers.

One idea suggested by Perea is a catastrophic illness program for employees with the most serious health problems, such as cancer.

Perhaps contemplating the cruel reality of what he voted for the first time, Borgeas also has said that he wants a catastrophic illness program that would exempt employees from the donation cap.

Whether this proposal will receive three votes is anyone's guess.

What is certain: County employees fighting for their lives need all the help they can get.

Shame on the board if it limits the heartfelt assistance that county employees can give to those truly in need of more time off.

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