Sussex County Delaware

F.I. Council Gives
Torres $2,000 Bonus
Fenwick Island ...

Decision Approved by
a 6-1 Council Vote
(Updated Jan. 10 with Frederick Comments)

SC Online Publisher

Fenwick Island Town Council voted to give Town Administrator Helen Torres a $2,000 bonus following an executive session on Monday, Jan. 6, 2003.

Council voted 6-1 to give Torres the bonus, according to council member Vicki Carmean, who cast the only dissenting vote.

Carmean said council also instructed council member Peter Frederick to determine how much Torres is owed for overtime she has worked. She added that Torres, hired in July 2002 to replace retiring administrator Barbara Hanrahan, is an hourly employee.

Hanrahan said on Tuesday, Jan. 8, that she did not receive a bonus in her 17 1/2 years of employment with the town. She said she received time-and-a-half pay for overtime like all other town employees.

Carmean said her fellow council members justified the bonus on the grounds that Torres had put in a substantial amount of overtime in her first six months on the job.

Neither council president Peg Baunchalk, council vice-president Harry Haon, or Frederick were available for comment immediately, but Frederick, reached on Friday, Jan. 10, said that awarding a bonus or a salary increase after a probationary period was a typical practice of many large companies and government agencies.

Frederick refused to divulge the amount of overtime Torres was owed, saying it was no one's business but the town's. He also wouldn't discuss Torres' performance. "I don't talk about personnel issues," he said.

He did say that Torres earns $33,000 a year and that her "total remuneration is still less than her predecessor's."

Carmean said her negative vote did not reflect her opinion of Torres' performance. She said she simply couldn't vote for a bonus given the town's current financial condition.

"I have a real problem with it," said Carmean.

Carmean added that Torres was the only town employee to be given a bonus.

Council has imposed a 10 percent property tax increase and a controversial 3 percent commercial rental tax this year to cover increased expenses.

It also eliminated the position of administrative assistant to the police chief -- held by Sherry Jordan -- due to budget concerns in November. Jordan, an employee with the town for 5 1/2 years, said she earned approximately $10 per hour.

The town is also awaiting financial audits that were not performed for the past four years. Council rescheduled its Jan. 24 meeting to Jan. 31 because it didn't think the management report for the audits would be available by Jan. 24.

Carmean said that until the town's finances are in order, she could not vote for employee bonuses.

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