Aransas County Commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Dec. 28, approved authorizing a carryover maximum of 160 hours vacation from the current year into 2021 for all county employees. The Aransas County Employee Handbook (2B-13) provides for such action due to the March 13, 2020 Presidential declared emergency concerning COVID-19.

The court also approved, with a 4-1 vote, paying out five vacation days to Gayle Otto, the chief deputy in the county clerk’s office. This issue was tabled at the court’s Dec. 14 meeting.

Late this year newly appointed County Clerk Carrie Arrington was told Otto needed to take 11 vacation days before the end of the year, or lose them. Arrington was able to schedule six vacation days, but it caused a problem in the department for Otto to be out more than that.

Arrington noted the money to pay Otto is available in her budget.

At Monday’s meeting, Arrington told the court, “I understand you don’t want to set a precedent, but due to things that happened in this department it is an exceptional circumstance.”

She noted Otto is an exemplary employee, with required credentials others in the office don’t yet have.

“We are working to get other employees credentialed,” said Arrington. “If I’m not there, she (Otto) must be there.”

Arrington noted the previous count clerk was out for six weeks and Otto didn’t have the opportunity to take off.

She also pointed out due to the changes that have occurred in the county clerk’s office this year it will be hard for Otto to get her vacation time next year (much less roll over unused vacation from this year into next year).

“It seems to me she has done a good job, and this is an unusual circumstance,” said Commissioner Jack Chaney.

Commissioner Charles Smith asked if the services, only Otto can provide, can be provided during two or three designated days per week.

“We could look at that, but she would have to do the work when she returns,” said Arrington.

Prec. 3 Commissioner-elect Pat Rousseau, the county’s former HR director, said, “Initially, I was opposed to this due to the precedent (it would set), but after (viewing the chart and understanding why this request if being made), I think there is good rationale (to pay Otto for five days).

Chaney made the motion to pay Otto for five days vacation. Commissioner Bubba Casterline seconded the motion, and it carried 4-1 with Smith casting the lone dissenting vote.

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