I-Team: State Employees Given Months Of Vacation Time

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) — How much vacation will you get this year? Two weeks? One week? None at all?

How would you like a job that gives you almost four months off with pay? Believe it or not, the I-Team has found state employees getting just that.

France is the home of the endless vacation, the gold standard when it comes to paid time off from work. “We are known as having one of the most generous social systems in the world,” says Christophe Guilhou, the French Consul General in Boston. “We’re not far from, let’s say, eight weeks per year.”

Massachusetts isn’t France, but the I-Team discovered assistant clerks in courthouses all across the Commonwealth have an even better deal than the French when it comes to time off with pay. “I’m not suggesting that this is not an excellent employment opportunity,” says Daniel Hogan, clerk of the Boston Municipal Court and president of the state Association of Magistrates and Assistant Clerks.

WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports.

There are 441 assistant clerks across the state and if you add up vacation, sick days, personal days and holidays, 223 of them get 76 days, or nearly four months off.

Most of the remaining clerks, 146, get 61 days, or slightly more that three months off.

Even the French consul general is surprised. “If you compare it to France, where you have a quite generous social system, I think it goes beyond the French system,” Guilhou says.

Back in the summer, the I-Team caught one of those assistant court clerks, since-retired Stephen Donovan, taking even more time off on the taxpayers’ dime.

We recorded Donovan with our hidden cameras taking long lunches at a downtown Boston bar, downing drink after drink while court was in session.

Donovan was paid $84,869 a year, which is the salary for most assistant clerks.

“It’s just wrong,” says Barbara Anderson, co-founder of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “It’s just wrong for the system to be giving that kind of pay and perks and that kind of time off.”

“If you had everyone working at full capacity you could have a much smaller payroll and you could save a lot of money,” Anderson adds. “But that’s not what the system’s for. The system is for those employees to have three and four months off.”

Benefits for assistant clerks are set by the state legislature. The clerks handle the administrative work of the courts, conducting arraignments and bail hearings, issuing arrest warrants, and presiding over small claims court.

“These people are entitled to the time that they accumulate and they’re entitled to take a vacation with their family,” says Hogan, who heads the association which represents the assistant clerks.

Hogan claims reducing the clerks’ time off with pay would not increase efficiency in the courts.

“I understand the thought process of the citizens,” Hogan says. “They look at public employees in general and say that some of the benefits that they receive are excessive.

“However, I do believe that in the case of an assistant clerk, the responsibilities that clerks and assistant clerks take on, on a daily basis, the pay and the benefits are commensurate.”

When we asked Guilhou what French workers would think of the system in the Massachusetts courts, he laughed. “I prefer them not to know about the system,” he says.

Someone who should know a lot about the personnel system in the state courts is retiring Chief Justice Margaret Marshall.

Marshall told the I-Team in July that she is convinced there is nothing left to cut when it comes to the court’s payroll.

The chief administrator of the trial court, Robert Mulligan, declined the I-Team’s request for an interview.

Mulligan’s spokeswoman later released a statement claiming the number of days off for the clerks is consistent with what is given to management employees in the state’s executive branch.

But figures provided by the governor’s office show that is not true. State managers get between two and four weeks less each year in time off with pay.

  • gab

    This is ridiculous!!!! That is why Massachusetts is going down the tube. Gov.Patrick should do something. Truly unfair for those who save lives.

  • gab

    Thank you WBZ for taking on these stories and exposing these loopholes.
    Keep up the good work

  • John

    This was an irresponsible and confusing report because it mixes in sick days with other time off. Sick days are not vacation. If people are abusing sick days, that’s another issue, but there’s no way of telling from this report how much actual vacation and personal days people are actually getting. This is a crude form of populism.

    • steve

      Come on John, get real. You must have one of these cushy jobs. If you worked in the private sector you would easily see how redicules this is.

  • Sparky

    How can the populous of a state with so many colleges be so stupid?

  • Emmett Green

    Oh BZ, this story borders on yellow journalism. Counting sick days as time off? Including holidays too? Most workers get Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc. off, so treating holidays as if they’re some sort of perk is unfair. This is just bad reporting. WBZ, you’re better than this. Tsk, tsk.

    • baileyislandgirl

      WBZ used to be better than this, but it isn’t any more. This is yellow, muckracker journalism and this once outstanding station should be ashamed of the depths to which it has fallen. Trash.

  • baileyislandgirl

    WBZTV is well on its way to becoming nothing less than muckraking reporting. Stories like this filled with 1/2 truths and whole lies do nothing but rile up an ignorant and/or ill informed population and serve no useful purpose. Other than lead stories, I’ve pretty much stopped watching this station.

  • alleydweller

    Tell me what a “personal day” is if it’s not a vacation day? 4 months is 88 days; knock off a dozen holidays that’s 76 days. Take off 5 weeks vacation that’s 51 days left for what? Sick time??
    And we know what state workers considere sick time: Sickness, Sickness in Family, Sickness in Pets, My car is sick…My girlfriend is sick. I’m sick of work. Coworker was sick yesterday so today is payback, I;ll have to take a sick day today after reading this report.

  • Rocko5

    State government corruption is alive and well in Massachusetts…

  • mikey

    Another gouging of taxpayers. Pathetic.

  • shotime

    You can call this yellow journalism all you want… but sorry folks, the numbers are still excessive, even if you add in sick-time and holidays. I won’t do the math since alleydweller was already kind enough to do it for us. Anyone defending these numbers either works for the court, or doesn’t care where their tax dollars go! Well, I sure do, so thank you WBZ for reporting this story!

  • alleydweller
  • Mullen

    Keep up the good work.
    Thank you I-Team for taking on these stories and exposing these loopholes.
    Keep the pressure on the legislature to correct these imbalances and let us know if they fixed the problem or just ignored the problem.

  • blackbear

    I too am very suspiscious of the I Teams reporting due to some very poor performances lately. However, as a retired Teacher I was always told I had to be held ACCOUNTABLE, which I certainly was. Doesn’t anyone else? If not, why? I would like some company in this ACCOUNTABILITY game. Can’t anyone join me?

  • Rocko5

    Thanks alleydweller!
    441 receptionists @ $85k with 4 months vacation…how ridiculous!!!

  • terri

    I’m glad news stations report these stories, how else would we know about it? Deep down everyone knows they have a lot of time off, the workers will try to justify it and others whitewash it by calling it yellow journalism…wipe away all the talk and you expose the truth..way too much time off. You know it, so stop defending it. The problem is that even with these stories, nothing will change…nothing…next week, new story about another department and the rage will subside…that’s how it is now..get mad, then nothing happens…get mad, nothing happens….nothing will change in a one party state.

  • nz Road

    And we thought the fire departments were PORKING us

  • Sick

    And here the District Attorneys are out crusading saying that the public defense system should be one of state employment rather than the current less expensive one where lawyers are paid a low contract rate with no benefits, pensions or anything else, much less months of time off per year.

    And Governor Patrick supports this sceheme.

    Way to go, Massachusetts. Way to go….

  • graft du jour

    The starting yearly salary for a prosecutor in Massachusetts just out of law school (many of whom are carrying over $100K in debt) is $39,000–maybe a little more, if they’re lucky. Assistant District Attorneys routinely work through their holidays/sick days/evenings/weekends, while the clerks who are being paid twice as much vehemently complain about having to do anything for anyone past 3:30 or so. We know from last week’s report that the probation department is even worse than this… so why all this infighting between DAs and CPCS?

  • decol

    What does it take to get all these hands out of my pockets? One obviously has to “know” someone in the legislature to get a job like this.No one can justify this kind of time off on the publics dime.This will never be fixed in this crooked state–BAHHHH!!!!!

  • Sal City

    Since 1996 assistant clerks have received one pay raise. Name a police officer, fire fighter, mayor etc. who has done the same. The vacations are not the issue. It is the carry over of sick and personal time that adds up. Ironically these people have so much time, because they do not use or abuse their time.

    Let’s not start with the judges who want to control everything. They start out with six weeks of vacation when they are appointed to the bench. Many have upwards of a year of true vacation time stored away on the books.

  • Lauretta

    Shame on you WBZ. I work in a hospital in Boston and we get 6 weeks of vacation every year. Our sick time comes from the vacaition pool. I’m saddened you have to stoop this low in the name of investigative journalism. 4 weeks of vacation is not unheard off.

    • shotime

      how do you get 4 weeks from 4 months?

  • Mark E. Fishbon, Esq.

    Let’s not shoot the messanger here. The more important issue is how does this affect our juducial system. I am a practicing attorney. Court houses are closing, sessions are closing or being cut, personnel are short staffed, filing fees and costs are goiing up, delays in processing cases are increasing. If clerk vacation time is part of the problem lets change it. If not, focus on improving the system with the input of the clerks. Most are good, competent and hardworking and keep the system running.

  • Mark Robichaud

    1) You all had an opportunity to start correcting this a couple weeks ago and what did you do? You sent all the corrupt pols back to their seats.
    2) Private sector is not allowed to roll over vaca & sick days. Don’t use them you lose them at the end of the year. Also most places have a max of 4 weeks vaca & 5 sick days per year.
    3) $84,000 per year for 4.5 hour days. They don’t start until 9, 2 hours for lunch, quitting time is 3:30.
    4) This state is one of the most corrupt in the nation. Has been for many years and nothing changes. When are you all going to get really fed up and sustain the anger?
    5) This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is rampant in this state from the the executive on down.
    Whenever we get upset about this stuff we are ignorant people, even Deval said so not that long ago.

  • wife of state worker

    I am really tired of WBZ bashing state workers. My husband works for the state and he works HARD, so hard, he doesn’t take lunch. With all the cuts that were made, he barely has time to look up from his desk. Yes, he has a lot of vacation and sick time that’s unused that rolls over to the next year because he doesn’t use them. He has worked for the state for almost 30 years. I don’t think 5 weeks of vacation for 30 years of work is ridiculous.

    The governor needs to lay off the people who are abusing the system, not the good hardworking people, and most of them are hardworking.

  • Phil W

    Even if you subtract 11 holidays, 15 sick days, and 5 personal days, that still leaves 45 days or 30 vacation days depending on which group you are looking at. That’s 6 to 9 weeks of vacation time. That’s unbelievable! No wonder the state always needs more money.

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