A major North Texas city continues its track record of paying huge severances, hush money, and termination bonuses to employees they either let go or terminate.
The City of Denton’s former City Manager George Campbell recently left, after the city council decided not to renew his contract. On his way out, he received at least $380,000 in “severance” in exchange for Campbell waiving protections afforded to him in his previous contract.
Lucrative severances are unfortunately commonplace in local government, and are the result of ridiculous terms embedded in employment contracts designed to favor public “servants” over the best interests of taxpayers, even in cases where there is cause for termination or non-renewal.
Even worse, both parties often agree not to disparage one another or release any details, further obscuring the ability for Texans to hold public officials accountable.
In 2011, an open record request by the Denton-Record Chronicle revealed the City of Denton paid “hush money” to at least five terminated employees.
The report found these individuals were paid between $1,000 and $94,000 each in exchange for “release-and-waiver” agreements that relieved the city of legal liability that could result from employment disputes. Again, each party agrees not to discuss details surrounding the termination.
Unfortunately for Texans working in the private sector, rarely are non-executive employees paid to leave.
But immediately following the golden-parachute severance paid to Campbell in July of this year, Denton’s interim city manager negotiated a “termination” bonus for another non-executive staffer—Aimee Bissett.
Bissett, the now former Director of Economic Development, negotiated a deal that included $91,000 in total compensation. Her departure followed allegations of a sexual harassment cover up. Bissett may have violated the city’s HR policy regarding harassment complaints – which is grounds for termination – and may have received her termination bonus to remain quiet.
Even worse, the city council had no opportunity to weigh in on her termination bonus since council’s policy allows city administration to spend up to $100,000 without their approval.
Texas taxpayers faced with rising property tax bills must be frustrated to see their ballooning taxes are funding bonuses for terminated public “servants.”
To protect taxpayers, Texas state law does not allow severance pay for state employees. It’s clear the legislature should not only extend that policy to local governments, but also require greater transparency for staffing disputes.
After all, Denton isn’t the only locality to demonstrate a track record of greasing the pockets of under-performing employees on their way out. Texans deserve better.