Manatee employees will NOT have to give back their raises - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Manatee employees will NOT have to give back their raises

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Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker

8 On Your Side first broke the story, and now we're seeing results. Manatee County employees were given raises prematurely, only to be told they had to pay the county back.

After News Channel 8 reported the story, the county backed down and now the employees don't have to pay a dime.

Donny Combs is a landscaper for Manatee County. Back in January, he completed training for a program called the Career Ladder, and was given a raise in his paycheck.

Related Story: Manatee County employees given raise then told to give them back

Two-weeks ago, Combs told 8 On Your Side, "We don't make a lot of money here at the county, so every little bit helps."

But in June, he was given a letter saying the raise was given prematurely, and he had to pay it all back.

Combs angrily stated, "I don't see that as our mistake. We did everything we could to get ahead."

Around 25 employees were on the hook for around $12,000, so 8 On Your Side went to the county for answers.

At the time, County spokesman Nick Azzara said, "As a public sector employer, we take it very seriously. These are taxpayer dollars. There's no room for error."

But now there's a change of heart. County administrator Ed Hunzeker decided to handle the debt himself. He's giving up vacation time, so now the affected employees will not have to return their raises to the county.

Hunzeker said, "When management makes a mistake, you usually don't make employees pay, that's a personal philosophy."

He added, "It’s troublesome that it had to come to this and create this much angst in these employees lives. But if we can fix it before they were actually penalized it’s a good thing."

Donny Combs is thrilled. He exclaimed, "There's not even words to describe how good I feel right now."

And it gets better - next week the county is allowing Combs to finish his training so his raise can be returned to him.

Combs gives a lot of credit to 8 On Your Side.

"I'm really glad that I reached out, and I'm really glad that you guys did the story."

Hunzeker could not promise that this mistake wouldn't happen again.

"You’ve got 1,700 employees and a variety of programs and a variety of departments and once in a while, we’re going to have a slip up," he said.

The county recently hired a new HR director, so officials are going to work hard to avoid other mishaps like this one.

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