Only weeks after Cheraw Police Chief Jay Brooks took a leave of absence from his job to become a candidate for sheriff of Chesterfield County, Cheraw Town Council members have changed the town’s policy on leave of absences.
Cheraw Town Council member Jacqueline Ellerbe-Shannon cast the only no vote on the policy change. Councilman Randy Butler was not present for the vote.
“I’m not comfortable with the decision coming up after the fact,” said Ellerbe-Shannon. “My question is, would he have made the same decision had he known?”
What is now the old policy is a short document. The revised version is much more detailed. The biggest difference between the two is that the new policy does not guarantee that the employee will get his or her job back.
Cheraw Town Administrator Mike Smith requested the change.
“Recently, the Town Council granted a leave of absence to Police Chief Jay Brooks to run for Chesterfield County sheriff,” said Smith. “As a result, the town’s policy concerning ‘Political Activity’ was examined and found to be vague.”
Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram said there are “no guarantees” in the political arena. He agreed with the need to “spell out the policy better.”
During the meeting Tuesday evening it was unclear as to whether Brooks would fall under the old policy or the new. Wednesday morning, Smith said, “As far as I’m concerned, if Brooks returns he will be the police chief. Any other decisions would fall on the mayor and council.”
“We just needed to clarify the town’s position on this matter so there will be no confusion in the future,” said Smith.
Brooks’ leave of absence from the town began March 17. He was not present for the council meeting and was not available for comment prior to press time. It was not immediately clear whether the new policy would impact Brooks or only employees who run for public office in the future.
The new policy, in part, reads:
Employees who take a leave of absence will be required to turn in any town issued equipment they use to perform their duties to include vehicles, cell phones, gas cards, computers, etc.
Employees while on a leave of absence for political activity will be allowed to be paid from any accrued annual leave time but will not be paid from any sick time accrued. The employee will not receive any accrued annual leave or sick leave during the leave period. Additionally, the employee will be required to maintain all health insurance premiums during the leave period.
The employee will remain on leave of absence until the position they are seeking is decided by election or appointment.
Employees who are not successful in their attempt to be elected and choose to return to their employment with the town of Cheraw are not assured they will return to their old position.
— Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261.