Advertisement
Baltimore County

Baltimore County official who used months of sick leave to get paid is no longer on the payroll

A Baltimore County official paid for nearly a year after he stopped working is no longer on the county payroll.

William “Chris” McCollum, the county’s former deputy director of economic development, was cut off from pay May 18, a county spokeswoman confirmed to The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday.

Advertisement

McCollum’s last day of work for the county was in July 2021, but Democratic County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s administration let him use his accrued sick leave without medical documentation to stay on the payroll at his $137,710 salary.

Reached by phone, McCollum declined to comment Wednesday.

Advertisement

McCollum had stopped working last summer after reports by county Inspector General Kelly Madigan detailed wasteful spending and unauthorized purchases at the county agricultural center in Cockeysville while he was director. Olszewski’s staff said at the time McCollum resigned — but officials more recently confirmed that he was in fact still being paid.

Olszewski’s spokeswoman, Erica Palmisano, said she couldn’t provide the details behind the decision to stop paying him on May 18, calling it a personnel matter.

Correspondence between McCollum and County Attorney James Benjamin, provided by the county in response to questions, show a dispute over whether McCollum was working elsewhere after he stopped working at the county. In an April 29 email, Benjamin asked McCollum to provide tax forms and other documents by May 11 showing any post-county income he had.

In the emails, Benjamin and McCollum cite an agreement to let McCollum use his sick leave to continue his county health care coverage until he found a new job elsewhere.

“The agreement you constructed and to which I agreed is straightforward and is intended to allow me the use of my accrued sick leave so that I can retain my health care coverage while I look for a job that replaces it,” McCollum wrote to Benjamin in one email in April.

The Sun has requested a copy of that agreement, but the county has not provided it.

Two months earlier, Benjamin wrote to McCollum on March 1 saying the county was ”inclined to end your health coverage” after learning that “you are employed with 2844 Hudson LLC and/or Lee’s Restaurant Group as the Director of Operations.”

In response, McCollum said he was not employed there.

Advertisement

“To be clear, I am not now nor have I ever been an employee of 2844 Hudson LLC or Lee’s Restaurant Group,” McCollum wrote on March 8. “However, I have lent my time to this group to help with some projects and permitting issues that they are pursuing. I have done this while I continue to pursue job opportunities.”

The correspondence also touches on fallout from the inspector general investigation.

The Morning Sun

The Morning Sun

Daily

Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.

In an April 25 email to Benjamin, McCollum said that the release of his name in connection with the investigation was “simply inexcusable and has caused significant harm for me moving forward.” He criticized county leadership for establishing an inspector general, which he described as a “position in the government that literally answers to not a single, person, board, committee or oversight entity ….”

McCollum held various county positions since being hired in 2002.

Advertisement

In August 2020, he was named acting director of economic development, making him eligible for the county’s department-head pension system, which provides more lucrative retirement benefits than those granted to other county workers. Some must serve at least two years as a department head or in a similar position to qualify for a department-head pension.

Palmisano didn’t answer questions Wednesday about how much accrued time McCollum had left and whether he might still qualify for a department-head pension.

McCollum has served as campaign treasurer to County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, and for a slate that has included dozens of Democratic county politicians, including Olszewski.


Advertisement