The Orange County Commissioners Court decided to continue with the current policy authorizing maternity/paternity leave for employees rather than reverting to the previous policy at their regular meeting on March 16.
County Judge Brint Carlton introduced the agenda item. He said Orange County had a policy a year ago that did not count against employee sick time. Employees could take up to six weeks of leave.
Since changing, leave counts against employee vacation and sick time.
John Banken, Precinct 3 commissioner, said the system was abused by employees who weren’t affected by maternity/paternity leave.
The county follows the Family Medical Leave Act which protects the employee’s job for a maximum of 12 weeks while they are out.
“What really bothers me is the abuse,” Banken said.
Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, said commissioners can structure the maternity/paternity leave as wither medically based (with no leave available to women who adopt), or non-medically which is gender neutral. Orange County has a non-medical policy.
Manning said the abuse allegations arose from perspective fathers using the time off for hunting and/or fishing trips instead of the intended use.
Minnie Hightower, HR director, said the FMLA did offer leave for a catastrophic illness such as cancer.
“We have a very generous program here,” she said.
She added it would be counteractive for the court to revert to the old policy.
David Dubose, Precinct 1 commissioner, said the county can’t financially afford to give any more time off.
Rosalinda DiTommaso with the Texas Association of Counties gave a presentation on the Wellness Incentive Program for county employees and efforts to comply with the Affordable Care Act. She also gave a mid-year review of the Wellness Incentive Program.
Some of the numbers weren’t where the commissioner would had liked.
Banken said he thinks some of the employees aren’t taking advantage due to their lack of knowledge of the program.
He was in favor of educating department heads who in turn would educate the employees on the incentives.
“It could be a benefit to everyone and a big cost savings,” he said.
Likewise, the court appointed Hightower as Wellness Coordinator for the Wellness Incentive Program after she volunteered for the position. Carlton was appointed as Wellness Sponsor.
Schaumburg & Polk were awarded the $2.7 million General Land Office Recovery 2.2  contract to replace bridges and culverts in the county.
Projects include the swing bridge on Cow Bayou; the Thomas Road Bridge; Pine Bluff, Allie Payne and Evergreen; Yaupon and Greenbriar; Lane of the Oaks; and various locations on Bessie Heights.
Jody Crump, Precinct 4 commissioner, asked Consultant David Waxman to minimize road closures as much as possible. Waxman said he has met with project engineers and they will take it into consideration.

Photo – The Orange County Commissioners Court proclaimed March 1922 as “Bassmaster Week” in the county.
The proclamation recognizes the Orange County River Festival held on the Sabine River. The court was presented with a poster with signatures from the 12 finalists at the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in Orange. Judge Brint Carlton holds the signed posted from the 12 finalists from the 2013 tournament.
RECORD PHOTO: David Ball