County manager: Employees requested chance to donate vacation time to coworker

By Robin Fornoff

Projects Editor

rfornoff@cnjonline.com

Interim Roosevelt County Manager Jena Wilbanks isn’t asking Roosevelt County employees to step up and donate their vacation time to another employee injured on the job.

Wilbanks said Tuesday neither she nor any other manager would make such a request, despite a PNT story that may have incorrectly implied that was what happened Aug. 5, when commissioners approved a request to allow employees to donate their time to Leroy Manzanares.

Manzanares is recovering from wounds suffered during an inmate escape in July. Officials said Manzanares was hit in the head with a pickax by murder suspect Senovio Mendoza Jr., who was part of a work detail at the fairgrounds.

Wilbanks said the commission’s action was the result of a gracious gesture — employees asking Wilbanks if they could give any of their spare vacation time to their injured co-worker.

Donating their vacation time to another sick or injured employee is allowed and is addressed in the county’s employee handbook of employment policies. The handbook states doing so is strictly voluntary and must be approved by commissioners on a case-by-case basis, said Wilbanks.
Thus, the reason commissioners were required to act.
Wilbanks said in addition to approving the request in the Manzanares case, commissioners also approved a similar request by other employees on behalf of employee Shauna Wade.

Wilbanks said it wouldn’t be fair for her or any other officials to ask county employees to donate their time to Manzanares because his time off the job is covered by the county’s workman’s compensation insurance policy. The policy pays employees injured on the job.

Wilbanks said under the workman’s compensation policy, employees injured are paid the equivalent of 67 hours of their 80-hour pay period. The payment is part of an insurance settlement for an injury, thus not considered income and not taxable.

With no tax deductions, said Wilbanks, employees collect approximately what they would receive in a normal pay period.

County Attorney Rick Queener said the county is not allowed by law to exceed or supplement workman’s compensation payments to an employee. To do so would place the county in violation of the anti-donation clause in New Mexico’s constitution, Queener said.

The anti-donation clause prohibits donations to individuals by governmental entities.

Manzanares did not return messages seeking comment.