SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will let a former employee keep nearly $5,000 in unused sick leave despite agency and state rules that say he’s not entitled to it.
Dwight Lamberson retired on July 23, 2015. However, an email to commissioners from then-Chief of Staff Vince Martinez said the former utility division director would begin “taking some leave” at that time. For the next eight weeks, Lamberson burned through sick leave while still accruing retirement benefits and annual leave. By the time he left the PRC in September, Lamberson had collected $13,562.80 in sick pay with no evidence that he was actually sick.
In a proposed settlement agreement filed in state District Court in Santa Fe, the PRC told a judge it would let Lamberson keep the $4,697.77 he was paid by the agency for 328 hours of unused sick time. Lamberson, who signed the proposed settlement, would have to pay back $8,865 to the PRC.
As part of the agreement, the PRC would publicly state that it made the sick-leave payment to Lamberson in error.
A spokesman for the commission said the agency would not comment on the proposed settlement until after District Court Judge Francis J. Mathew.
In January, Commissioner Valerie Espinoza said Lamberson’s deal was embarrassing and bad for morale.
“I mean, to pay somebody sick leave that’s not actually ill is a travesty. Because you’ve got to remember it’s taxpayer money we’re talking about here,” Espinoza told KRQE News 13.
Lamberson did not respond to an email requesting comment on the proposed settlement.
As part of the deal, Lamberson would have to agree to drop all future claims against the PRC. The $8,865 he would have to give back to the agency — and New Mexico taxpayers — within six months.