Hillsborough considers generous severance packages

09/19/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough Commissioner Brian Blair today called on the County Attorney and Administrator to research the policy on offering severance packages to departing employees.

Blair raised the issue after the head of the county’s Public Transportation Commission received a severance package equal to three months of his pay – even after he was suspended the month before for several alleged transgressions. And it follows a series of dismissed employees who were granted generous packages.

Blair asked County Attorney Renee Lee if the county’s current way of handling the issue is similar in the private sector.

The former director of the county’s Transportation Commission, Greg Cox, quit at the end of last month amid accusations that he abused some of his agency’s employees. He also received around $12,000 in unauthorized allowance pay in error.

Yet the Board vote to give Cox the equivalent of 3 months pay, or $25,000 in severance, when he quit.

Commissioner Ken Hagen voted to give Cox six months pay. And Brian Blair, who prides himself on being a good fiscal steward of the county’s finances, had also tried to persuade commissioners to reward Cox with six months pay.

There have been other notable payouts to exiled Hillsborough employees in the past few years. Former parks director Stan Motley left county government after disagreements with County Administrator Pat Bean. He received $81,000 in severance. When Dan Kleman left a couple of years ago, he was given $167,000.

Commision Jim Norman said that there have been faulty evaluations done by managers that should also be scrutinized. And he said the county should put a limit on how much severance it could pay.

Commissioner Kevin White has been one of the most outspoken commissioners in criticizing payments, especially to employees who in the eyes of some, have done wrong.

County Attorney Renee Lee has justified some of the severance packages offered to some employees, calling them payment for release and settlement claims.

But Commissioner Kevin White said the County, not the employee, has the authority in the situation.

The Commission voted unanimously to have the County Attorney and Administrator to review their policies towards providing severance packages.

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