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HomeNewsArchivesJUDGE HODGE SEEKS $400,000 OWED HIM IN LEAVE

JUDGE HODGE SEEKS $400,000 OWED HIM IN LEAVE

Retired Presiding Judge Verne Hodge is seeking a $400,000 payment from the government for annual and sick leave he accumulated in his 23-year tenure at Territorial Court.
The amount is almost four times his annual salary at the time he retired Oct. 31, 1999. Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull has asked Attorney General Iver Stridiron for guidance about paying the large sum.
"There’s nothing illegal about it," Hodge said Friday. Stridiron already sided once with Hodge, but Turnbull asked him to take a second look.
For most government employees, annual leave is effectively capped at two years’ worth — or 960 hours — at the time of retirement.
However, a law passed in the 1970s (and later repealed) exempted judges who were seated at that time from any limit. Hodge is the last of the judges covered by the law.
Former judges Eileen Petersen, Henry Feuerzeig, Henry Smock, the late Antoine Joseph and the late Irwin Silverlight were all entitled to limitless accumulated leave payments, attorney Glenda Lake, Territorial Court administrator, said.
The law was tested in U.S. District Court when Joseph retired, and was upheld, Hodge noted.
But now, he said, "the principle goes out the window because of the amount."
Hodge said the amount requested does not include any overtime. "I lost over $2 million in overtime," he said, "because we don’t get paid overtime."
He has offered to take the payment in installments. Further, he said, "half of it [the $400,000] is taxes" he’ll pay back to the government.
The issue surfaced in November, but all the parties were publicly mum until this week. Stridiron wrote to the Finance commissioner on Dec. 14, advising her that "the payroll record of the court clerk for Judge Hodge is supported by legal authority, and you may proceed to make the appropriate disbursements."
Stridiron told the Source Friday that he is going by the law in effect for Hodge and other judges seated at the time of its passage. Although it was later repealed, he said, they were entitled to the unlimited accrual "and so we’re obligated to do what was required back then."
He said Bernice Turnbull wants him to look into how far back sick leave may be accrued. Turnbull, after not returning telephone calls for more than a week, said Friday that "the whole matter is under review."
Lake said the money would be paid out of the general fund, charged to the Territorial Court budget, which this fiscal year is $17.4 million.
Territorial court judges earn $100,000 a year. The presiding judge earns $110,000. After 20 years of service, a judge is entitled to retire at full pay.

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