Friday, October 3, 2014

Councilor proposes banning severance pay

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Councilor Jill Gaebler isn't hot on Collins' idea. She write via email:
I've only read through Helen's proposal once, but my first thoughts were that it was disjointed, and legally questionable. Which makes me believe it was written by Doug Bruce.

There are changes that need to be made to the City's severance policies, but they should be pursued thoughtfully; looking at best practices of other cities, while working with the Executive Branch toward a collaborative solution.
 We asked Collins if, in fact, Bruce had written her proposal, to which she responded, "I drafted/submitted the ordinance and am trying to get it on the next Council agenda."

———————————————-ORIGINAL POST FRIDAY, OCT. 3, 2014, 1:04 P.M.———————————————————————-

City Councilor Helen Collins is proposing an ordinance that would ban severance pay or the giving away of any city asset, including cash, to anyone without fair compensation.

Collins: Stop with the paying people not to work. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Collins: Stop with the paying people not to work.
Collins sent her proposal to her colleagues today and also sent a message to City Attorney Wynetta Massey saying, "Having seen the Independent article on payouts/severance pay to city staffers, I'm proposing the attached City Council city theft prevention ordinance. Please assign to staff and have the draft back to me
by next Thursday, October 9th. Your assistance is appreciated!"

This week, the Independent reported that Mayor Steve Bach gave former City Attorney Chris Melcher a separation package that cost taxpayers roughly $139,000, which includes $108,000 for six months pay and consulting fees for which the city cannot account for hours spent and on what assignments. Addition funds were used to pay for Melcher's health insurance and to pay a lawyer to negotiate his separation agreement on behalf of the city. (Melcher is now in Georgia.)

The Indy also reported that Mayor Steve Bach has paid 86 departing employees $1.66 million in severance pay alone since taking office in June 2011, although the big bucks went to top managers and appointees.

Collins' proposal is an ordinance she wants to become effective Jan. 1. She also wants it to be a ballot issue on the April 7, 2015, city ballot.

Collins says she expects pushback from the city attorney's office and others. "I can almost guarantee they're going to delay it," she says. "I just don't think they're going to agree with parts of it."

Councilor Jan Martin says a measure calling for an end to severance pay might have a good chance of passage by voters, but the other aspects of Collins' proposal might make it too complicated to get it through.

Here's Collins' proposal:

(a) Title. This measure, the “City Theft Prevention Ordinance,” shall take effect January 1, 2015. It shall also appear on the April 2015 ballot as proposed charter section 13-100 with the title “City Theft Prevention,” to be effective upon voter approval.
(b) Purpose. This measure is intended to prevent theft of City funds or property by any City elected official or employee or by any other person. “City” also includes any enterprise, authority, commission, board, or other group controlled by or accountable to the City. This measure shall be strictly construed to prevent the conduct it describes. Giving City funds or property is illegal, immoral, and a violation of the public trust. Such action also suggests political corruption. Citizens have a right and duty to protect City assets from misuse, as recently exposed.
(c) Illegal conduct. It is unlawful for any person:
(1) To give City funds or other property to any person or group except as fair compensation for tangible goods or specific services previously provided to the City by written contract; or
(2) To pay any bonus; severance, retirement, or separation pay; insurance; vehicle, moving, or health cost; legal fee; retirement fund; or similar personal monetary benefit not required by state or federal law, or for work not done, or for silence, and all such City gifts are void and shall be returned to the City; or
(3) To contract for outside goods or services over $10,000 without a specific Council appropriation in advance for that amount, or to provide annual total monetary compensation over $100,000 for any City employee without a specific Council appropriation in advance for that named person.
(4) The City shall recover any illegal transfer to the recipient or later transferee or possessor of such stolen property. It shall be no defense that one was ordered to pay funds or transfer property that would violate this measure. No person shall be punished for refusing to violate this law. Compensation for unused sick pay and vacation time shall be on equal terms for all employees, and City cash payments after 2017 for not working shall not exceed a lifetime total of $10,000 per person.
(d) Property transfers. Sale or transfer of real or personal property shall be only by public auction, except Council may approve sales of used personal property worth under $10,000. For real property, the minimum acceptable auction bid shall be the county-assessed full market actual value or more.
(e) Penalties. Penalties for violations may be both civil and criminal.
(1) Criminal penalties shall be up to 90 days in jail for each illegal transfer of City funds or property valued at over one hundred dollars, plus a fine up to three times the amount stolen. A minimum fine of the amount stolen and full restitution with ten percent annual simple interest are both mandatory.
(2) Civil penalties for violations over one hundred dollars require full restitution with ten percent annual simple interest, a fine equal to the amount stolen, and automatic termination from employment for second offenders. The last penalty shall not apply to elected officials, who are not employees but are subject to recall by voters. The City shall repay attorney fees, costs, and damages incurred by persons cleared in criminal and civil prosecutions.
(f) Enforcement.
(1) After a credible and specific signed, written accusation is filed, the Council shall appoint a private special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute appropriate criminal and civil charges. Except to settle lawsuits filed against the City, no power to approve contracts and settle cases shall excuse theft of City funds. Only Council may appropriate money to settle such lawsuits.
(2) Any city resident may also bring suit in district court to enforce this measure and, if successful, shall be awarded court costs and actual attorney fees, but shall have no liability if the suit be dismissed. “Gift” also includes a subsidy or transfer at less than half market value, or a City loan without secured collateral having a market value above 120 percent of the loan amount. Existing contracts and actions 

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