The problem with the Bluffton Police chief’s chronic absence from work is not what he has been doing with all that time off.
Joey Reynolds has been serving as a board member and then president of a well-respected international police organization, the FBI National Academy Associates.
When he was hired, Reynolds was given approval to be away from Bluffton in that role.
The problem is that there was no written agreement specifying limitations, which are clearly needed. There were no details in the agreement. And there were no specification of when or whether any of this time should be docked against his permitted personal time off.
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To our mind, the need for limitations is clear after seeing the totals dug up by our reporter Kasia Kovacs.
Reynolds has been paid almost $80,000 for time he was not at work in Bluffton since he was hired almost five years ago.
His overall travel time totals almost 10 months, or about 17 percent, of his tenure as chief.
Reynolds has taken 67 trips on behalf of the professional group, a 17,000-member alumni association for the nonprofit FBI National Academy, a training organization near Washington, D.C.
Reynolds has been out of town for a total of almost five of the past 15 months.
Reynolds is joined by Mayor Lisa Sulka, the current town manager and the previous town manager who hired him, in saying his time away from work was productive. They say it benefits Bluffton by learning how others do things, and by making helpful contacts. They say it also is a feather in the cap of Bluffton and helps put it on the map. They also say the home town police department did not suffer by the chief’s absences. They say he has always been reachable.
That’s all good.
But the town of Bluffton, or any government, must have clear limitations in writing prior to granting such a high amount of absences.
As then there’s this. Reynolds was not only paid his salary for time away from the job, but he is now eligible for a windfall upon his retirement, scheduled for the end of this month. Reynolds will be eligible for a cash payout of as much as $41,911 for his unused paid time off.
That is not fair to taxpayers. To our mind, much of the time Reynolds has been away should have been considered personal time off. Time away from Bluffton doing the work of another organization should count against the allocation of personal days. That would be more fair to taxpayers.
Bluffton is not a small town anymore, and a great deal rides on its ability to be precise, businesslike and accountable. That is the primary concern in this issue. Common sense says that was way too much time for the police chief to be out of town. If it is acceptable as town leaders say it is, that should have been disclosed up front in full detail.
This type of attention to detail by the town is needed in other arenas as well. It is especially true for the town’s many agreements with developers, wherein the public depends on attention to details that should protect the environment and quality of life.