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Huntington city employee pay raises eyebrows

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HUNTINGTON (KYTX) -
Payments to employees in the City of Huntington are being questioned after the release of a report indicating that some of them may have been paid in violation of city policies.
 
It all started with an article on a website called watchdog.org. The folks there had gotten there hands on an audit done for the city of Huntington covering how money was spent on things like overtime, sick time and vacation. The article makes it sound like things are pretty bad but the audit itself doesn't seem to point any fingers and the people CBS 19 spoke with Wednesday said it's really not that big of a deal.
 
"Outlandish," former city secretary and current mayoral candidate Betsy Gregson said. "Very outlandish."
 
Gregson said she's been villainized.
 
She's up against an audit report that calls out just a few employees--including herself--for possibly receiving additional payroll in the wrong based on accrued benefits.
 
Over five years the report documents $82,000 paid out for un-taken vacation and another $52,000 for compensatory time.
 
"There's been nothing stole," Gregson said. "The hours that these people earn, including myself, were paid because they were earned and could not be taken off."
 
City attorney Jimmy Cassels has represented Huntington for nearly two decades.
 
"I think they've fixed the problem to a great extent," he said.
 
Cassels said he's not even sure it was truly a problem to begin with.
 
"You have to remember this council has been critical of that activity," he said. "There was a council on board prior to that time who obviously was not critical of that activity."
 
The biggest issue is the policies, which Cassels said could be written more clearly.
 
There's the policy limiting vacation time accrued and saying it has to be paid out on retirement. But it doesn't say it can't be paid sooner. Same thing for sick time. And there are overly broad portions that seem to mandate paying for everything with no timeframe attached.
 
"It is a grey area," Gregson said. "The policy never says. It was never a take it or lose it policy."
 
With an election on the way, Gregson said it's just politics.
 
"Absolutely," she said. "One of those council members is running against me for mayor."
 
We reached out to all of the current city council members here in Huntington. Two of them had no comment; the rest of them we have not heard back from. An employee at city hall said workers there had no comment.
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