TALLAHASSEE — Since taking office nearly three years ago, Attorney General Bill McCollum has scheduled nearly a year's worth of half-days, personal and vacation days, or weekdays with no planned events.
Over the same time, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink scheduled the equivalent of more than 26 weeks of half-days, personal or vacation days, and days with no listed events, according to a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald review.
At a time when Florida is experiencing record unemployment and budget shortfalls, the two Cabinet members vying to be elected governor in 2010 have schedules that most citizens can only dream about: a few partial to full work days in the Capitol, book-ended by long weekends or lengthy vacation periods.
Both defended their work habits, saying they are always on the job — making weekend phone calls, reading lengthy briefings in the evenings, answering e-mails — even if the schedule doesn't say so.
"Probably, we mischaracterized some of those days," said McCollum, 65, a Republican. "The schedule doesn't really reflect everything I do by any stretch of the imagination. . . . The job travels with me, even when I am taking personal time and vacation time."
Said Sink, 61, a Democrat: "I'm a multitasker. I've always got papers and things to read for work, even if I'm on a plane. I don't like to be anywhere without something to do."
The Times/Herald reviewed the daily calendars for Sink and McCollum from their first day in office on Jan. 2, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2009. Days in which they worked four hours or less are counted as half days of work. Holidays and weekends were excluded from the count of work days, though Sink and McCollum occasionally attend conferences or official events on those days. And particularly during the spring legislative session, there are days that begin early and are packed with meetings, luncheons and receptions that run through the dinner hour.
McCollum's schedule emerges as the most lax. He had 210 weekdays — the equivalent of 42 work weeks — in which he worked four hours or less, had nothing scheduled or took "personal" and vacation time. Of those days, 158 were half days in which his schedule shows events and meetings lasting four hours or less. He scheduled 86 personal days.
McCollum said he works even when his calendar is marked "personal day," such as last fall when he and his wife went to Wisconsin for a long weekend for their older son's wedding.
"Those are real personal times that may not have been marked vacation, but it was," he said. "I will tell you that except maybe on Saturday for the wedding itself, every single day I was in Wisconsin I was working on something for my office."
The job descriptions
As chief financial officer, Sink is paid $128,972 a year to lead an office of 2,022 employees and oversee a budget of $111 million. She serves as the state's treasurer and comptroller — overseeing a wide range of areas including the state fire marshal, the health of state finances and investments, and issues including consumer fraud, insurance, even funeral and cemetery regulation.
McCollum is paid $128,972 a year and leads an office with a budget of $181 million and more than 1,300 employees. As attorney general, he handles cases of Medicaid fraud, defends the state in civil litigation cases and goes after large cases of identity theft, drug trafficking and gang activity. McCollum's office also goes after Internet sexual predators and child pornography.
Unlike other state employees, Sink and McCollum don't have strictly defined or mandated work hours. As elected officials, they are not limited to 22 days off yearly, as are senior managers and political appointees in state government. When they want to leave early or take time off midweek, they can — and do.
Consider this summer. McCollum's schedule shows eight hours of "work and call" from Orlando on July 1, followed by a week and a half of vacation days. From mid July through July 31, he worked just six full weekdays. Every Friday was a partial work day.
McCollum typically spends weekends at his Longwood home near Orlando and drives back to Tallahassee on Mondays, when his official schedule for the day doesn't begin until mid- to late afternoon with staff meetings and briefings. The Times/Herald did not count McCollum's car commute as work time, but former CFO Tom Gallagher said that might not be fair.
"I can put the headset on and make calls and just head down the road," said Gallagher, a Republican. "So you can do a lot when you're on the road."
Sink often leaves Tallahassee midafternoon on Fridays, catching a commercial flight at her own expense to Tampa for the weekend or to California to watch son Bert McBride play in Stanford football games.
"I'm never going to be a football mom again, and it's incredible fun," she said. "And last year I was able to go to more games, so I did. This year, because of (campaigning), I won't be able to go as much."
Tallahassee lobbyist and lawyer Allan Katz, a Democrat, meets with Sink regularly. He said she is efficient and no-nonsense in how she uses her time.
"If you have 15 minutes on her calendar, you need to be prepared because there are probably a few appointments after you," Katz said.
Day off details
Sink's schedule is detailed, typically listing where personal and vacation time is spent. McCollum's schedule since January 2007 has just seven weekdays marked as "vacation," but Sink's has 50 such days. She has traveled to Alaska, to her Bahamas condo and to visit family in her native North Carolina.
She spent several of her "personal days" on those Stanford football weekends in California. She also took time off to attend meetings at Wake Forest University, her alma mater where she serves on the board of trustees.
Sink's schedule notes doctor visits, hair appointments, dinners with friends and gym time. It is a minute-by-minute accounting that she said dates back to her corporate days as Florida president of Bank of America.
McCollum's schedule is less specific, with stretches of a week or more in which he appears to work few hours or none at all — often from his home in Longwood.
During the entire month of August 2007, McCollum put in three full days of work, according to his calendar. In September 2008, just six full days. And in February of this year, Florida's top law enforcement officer ended his days early — or didn't work at all — most Mondays and Fridays, according to the calendar.
Fridays and Mondays account for 164 of the 210 days in which McCollum worked half days, took time off or had nothing scheduled.
For example: On Wednesday, Jan. 14 of this year, McCollum left a gang reduction task force meeting in St. Augustine and drove home to Longwood. He worked four hours the next day, attending an insurance industry summit at the Shingle Creek resort and meeting with Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. On Friday he stayed in Orlando, where the only scheduled event was a meeting with the Orlando Sentinel editorial board.
McCollum said he is on the phone with his staff "constantly," and initiatives like gang activity reduction are an "ongoing" process of research and planning that aren't reflected on his daily calendar. He said he spent last Sunday on the phone with attorneys to discuss a more than $7 million settlement involving pharmaceutical companies that he announced the following day.
"I spend a lot of time . . . doing things that will never be on the schedule," he said. "It's a very active office."
Democrat Bob Butterworth, attorney general from 1986 to 2002, said it's unfair to assume McCollum only works during the events listed on his calendar.
"He may be doing a 14-hour day and his official schedule shows only four," Butterworth said. "A lot of that stuff you're not going to put down on the sheets."
Times/Herald staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263. Marc Caputo can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 222-3095.