The Philadelphia Parking Authority eliminated hundreds of hours of comp time accumulated by two deputy executive directors as media scrutiny was intensifying on the controversial perk for senior PPA staffers.
Records obtained this week by the Inquirer and Daily News show that Richard Dickson and Dennis Weldon had accumulated nearly 500 hours of comp time collectively as of March 2016.
But that number was reduced and ultimately changed to zero in the PPA’s database after the September resignation of executive director Vincent J. Fenerty Jr. – and as the newspapers began reexamining how bosses were compensated at the city parking agency.
As a result, Dickson and Weldon, who also serves as general counsel, were omitted from a list the PPA provided to the newspapers showing that more than a dozen senior staffers had banked large amounts of comp time while earning six-figure salaries to run agency departments or oversee finances. Dickson is paid $208,166 a year and Weldon, $196,384.
PPA spokesman Marty O’Rourke said Wednesday that Dickson and Weldon “gave back their comp time” in October 2016.
“They’re not going to take it,” O’Rourke said. “They just decided to give it up.”
But records obtained from a PPA source show that Dickson, who had a balance of 337.13 hours in March 2016 – above the PPA's comp-time cap policy of 240 hours – still had 199 hours on record in late November. Weldon's balance was 162.37 in November, the records showed.
Asked about the discrepancy, O’Rourke subsequently issued a statement Friday that Dickson and Weldon surrendered their comp time not in October, but in January 2017 – the month the newspapers requested current and past comp-time balances.
That statement said executive director Clarena Tolson, who replaced Fenerty in October, established a policy that month that, “moving forward, prohibited the executive director and deputy executive directors from earning comp time under any circumstances. At that time, Rick Dickson and Dennis Weldon both voluntarily relinquished all of their previously accumulated comp time.”
O'Rourke said he could not provide the specific date in January when that happened.
The newspapers first requested comp time records for Dickson, Weldon, and other senior staffers via email on Jan. 5, 2017, and filed a formal Right-to-Know request on Jan. 13. The PPA initially responded that it “does not have records of comp time” or how it was used by Fenerty or “any other” senior staffers.
The agency later reversed course and produced a list, dated Jan. 20, showing that most senior staffers did have running balances of comp time – including one director with 437 hours – that could be converted to cash when they left the agency.
Fenerty, for example, turned his 289 hours into $33,178 after he was forced out of the job in September amid sexual-harassment complaints.
In addition to Weldon and Dickson, the Jan. 20 list showed that the PPA’s third deputy executive director, Corinne O’Connor, also had no comp time. She had previously accumulated small amounts -- 15.63 hours as of March 2016 and 5.25 hours as of November 2016.
“I have to find out what happened,” O’Connor said this week. Asked if she relinquished her remaining time, O’Connor said, “I don’t know if I did or I didn’t. I’m not answering your question, so let’s end it at that,” before hanging up.
In February, after the news story about comp time was published, Tolson held a directors meeting and disclosed that some employees, without providing names, “gave back” their comp time, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
Tolson, Dickson, and Weldon did not return requests for comment. Nor did any of the board members who oversee the PPA.