Looking After the Taxpayer

When you get a new job, is your first concern your exit strategy? During your interview, did you negotiate salary and vacation, or insist on a multi-month severance package?
If you’re a public official, it was probably the latter. The rest of us just give notice and hope for two weeks pay.
Over the past year and a half, both Londonderry and Derry lost their top town officials. And Londonderry’s town manager and Derry’s town administrator both signed contracts that made their departures anything but a financial hardship to anyone but the taxpayers.
In Londonderry, Dave Caron left for what the town said were personal reasons involving an extended family medical emergency. In Derry, John Anderson is leaving while facing misdemeanor charges of lewdness and indecent exposure. There is no link to the charges in his departure, but Anderson leaves on the last day before he would have become an at-will employee, thanks to the expiration of his three-year contract.
Regardless of the reasons for leaving, the problem centers on the financial benefit the departing officials take with them.
In Anderson’s case, his newly minted separation agreement gives him approximately $45,000 of taxpayer money in salary and benefits. He will be paid for 26 weeks of salary, and his benefits include, among other things, “$95.10 in good will.”
The town could fund the Farmers Market or hire a firefighter or police officer for what Anderson is getting.
In Londonderry, Caron received seven months salary and benefits, including contributions to his retirement plan, according to a separation agreement he signed with the town.
And when it hired Kevin Smith as its new town manager, Londonderry provided for two months severance pay plus unused vacation or sick time, and three months payment of all benefits – unless Smith were to resign to run again for political office, in which case he would not receive severance pay.
The contract with Smith is far better for the taxpayer than the contract with Caron. It bears something of a resemblance to what happens to people who don’t happen to be employed by the taxpayers when they lose their jobs.
And while some private companies have downsized and offered buyouts to employees, many others just eliminate jobs and say goodbye.
The six-figure salaries given top officials don’t put them at a disadvantage, so why are we filling contracts with escape clauses and payment schedules? In the real world, raiding the taxpayers’ wallets is not the way to bid farewell.

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