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Shewbart faces ethics complaint

Red Bay’s Mike Shewbart will be facing an ethics complaint if it is pursued by the state Ethics Commission.

According to a complaint being filed by Judy Bullen, of Red Bay, Shewbart took 88 days of sick leave from city employment during the time he campaigned for Mayor of Red Bay. Bullen’s complaint goes on to enumerate the authorized uses for sick leave in the City of Red Bay Employee Handbook, which indicate that sick leave is “intended solely to provide income protection for the events described in this policy and may not be used for any other absence.” Reasons given that would qualify for sick leave include sickness or injury; family sickness or injury; employee or family medical or dental appointment; and for funerals other than immediate family (for which bereavement leave is granted).

For an extended leave of absence for illness, the handbook further requires that “a licensed physician notifies the City in writing that the full-time employee is unable to work, and ends when the City is notified in writing by a physician that the employee is able to return to work.”

Bullen concluded, “It is my belief that Mr. Shewbart has violated the City of Red Bay rules of their Employee Handbook in falsely filing for sick leave while campaigning for the office of the City Mayor.”

According to the complaint letter, the complaint begins legal proceedings that require cooperation from the complainant (Bullen).

“I am on the Red Bay Water and Gas Board, and we have a policy on sick days,” Bullen said. “If you can take however many sick days you want for any reason, and not be sick … I felt like it was something that would trickle down and cause a problem.”

Bullen said when “word got out” that Shewbart was drawing sick pay while campaigning, she felt that had to be addressed, to make sure other employees would not engage in what she sees as cheating the system.

Shewbart said he was taken aback by the complaint.

“When I started to run for office, it was made known that I would have to take a leave of absence,” Shewbart said. After asking whether he could use comp time and sick time, Shewbart said, he was told that was permissible and in fact was a customary course of action by the city clerk and Mayor David Tiffin. He submitted time sheets and was paid according to those timesheets, out of time accumulated as part of the standard employment benefits package.

“I feel like I didn’t do anything other than what anybody else would do,” Shewbart said. He said it was his understanding that the leave pay was also OK’d by the League of Municipalities.

Shewbart said nobody ever came to him to question him about his hours.

“I have nothing to hide,” Shewbart said.