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Bonifay to pay Marell family over $90,000 for accrued leave time

BONIFAY – Amid financial difficulties, Bonifay City Council has approved a payout of more than $90,000 to go to the family of former Supervisor of Public Works Jack Marell. 

Marell, who passed away in August due to COVID-19 complications, served the City of Bonifay for 44 years and was owed a total of $93,030.14 for accrued comp time, sick leave, and vacation time.

Council members stated they are cognizant of the continuing budget issues faced by the city but that paying time owed to Marell is the right thing to do.

“I say we move ahead with this,” said Councilman Rickey Callahan. “The man worked here for 44 years. He deserves it.” 

The council unanimously agreed. 

City attorney Michelle Jordan explained that the large time accrual is unusual due to a change made to the city’s benefit package in 2015. Marell and Police Chief Chris Wells were grandfathered in under the previous benefit package, which did not place as many limitations on how much accrued time can roll over into new fiscal years.

“After the 2015 personnel policy update, the council agreed to allow Marell and Police Chief Chris Wells to remain under the prior benefit package,” said Jordan. “This action is what has allowed this number to be so high.” 

The amount must be paid in full by December 31 for tax purposes. The city says it will pay the Marell family $4,896.32 per week until then. The payments are set to be made from the general fund. 

Jordan says funds the city anticipates receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act will help offset the cost. 

“These are large payments, but the city should be able to handle them,” said Jordan. “Once the grant repayments start coming in and the ARPA funds start bearing interest, financially the city will be okay.” 

The council had previously worked out an agreement with Marell to pay down his comp time at a rate of ten hours per week until it reached a zero balance or until he retired; however, with his untimely passing came a need to alter the plan to ensure payments are complete prior to the beginning of the new year.

Council members unanimously agreed that ensuring Marell’s beneficiaries received his accrued compensation was a priority and vital to honoring his more than four decades of service to the city.

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