Former Wausau Economic Development Director Chris Schock speaks to council members about the former Connor Forest Industries property during a February 2020 meeting. Wausau Pilot & Review file photo

By Shereen Siewert

Wausau’s economic development director was absent from work more than 57 days in 2019, paid days off that were approved by the mayor as part of the city’s flexible scheduling policy.

A Wausau Pilot & Review investigation reveals that time cards submitted by Chris Schock, who was hired by the city in March 2015, vary significantly from his vacation request forms and payroll records. The time sheets, which list his hours worked daily, often fail to list a reason for his absences, 31 of which were on Mondays.

Human Resources Director Toni Vanderboom explained that the city’s policy allows exempt level staff who put in excessive or extraordinary hours to flex their schedule by working a reduced workweek with prior approval of the department director or mayor. Schock is “in the practice of recording flex time off on the absence request form” to ensure the mayor is aware that he will be out of the office, Vanderboom said.

“This reduced workweek is not on an hour-for-hour basis but to recognize work performed above-and-beyond the demands of the position,” Vanderboom said.

Of his absences, just 25 days — fewer than half — of his days out of office were coded as vacation, personal or perfect attendance leave, a benefit based on hours worked without a sick day. He also used a total of 12 hours of sick leave in 2019.

The remainder of the days in which Schock was absent from work are left blank on his time card without coded reason for his absence. Each of those days were submitted as vacation day requests to Mayor Robert Mielke and were subsequently approved.

For example, in the week of Nov. 17, Schock requested and was approved for an 8-hour vacation day on Monday, Nov. 18, then worked four hours on Nov.  19, 10 hours each on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, and four hours on Friday for a total of 28 hours for the week. He did not code the Nov. 18 day as vacation, so the day was not deducted from his allotted vacation time even though he was not in the office.

“A review of Mr. Schock’s timecard supports that at no time was this flexible scheduling used to the detriment of the City, and like all exempt employees Mr. Schock consistently worked on average more than 2080 hours per year,” Vanderboom wrote, in an email to Wausau Pilot and Review.

In 2019, Schock worked 1,877 hours, according to his time cards, and had 276 hours of paid leave time.

In December 2018, Schock was issued a letter from human resources advising him that a “glitch in the payroll system” awarded him more vacation time in 2018 than he was entitled to.

That error resulted in 47 hours, or about six days, of vacation that Schock used but did not earn, Vanderboom said. Once the error was discovered, the accrual amount was corrected, but the city did not recoup the time granted to Schock in error because the mistake was the city’s, not Schock’s, she said.

Schock, who was appointed director of economic development in 2016, earned $95,756 in 2019. He is a salaried employee but is required to log his hours worked.

Neither Schock nor Mayor Robert Mielke responded to a request for comment on this story.