Friday, April 15, 2011
They HAD a secret #2
Two years ago the assistant I.T. Director was let go for sending an email complaint about his boss to town manager Larry Shaffer, also copied to the entire Select Board.
I filed a public documents request for said dispatch; the town manger turned me down citing Exemption C, the most often used excuse: "Personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
But in late February I requested any and all "separation, severance, transition, or settlement agreements made since January 1, 2005 between the town of Amherst and their employee's that include compensation, benefits, or other payments worth more than $5,000."
So here it is: Just another case of an employee who suddenly disappears (with $25-K in hand)
A Gazette reporter called yesterday to interview me about the original post concerning the town manager's sudden retirement with a $62-K going away present and his, errr, administrative assistant also disappearing that same day with a $22-K payday after only 3-and-a-half years employment with the town.
He wanted to know "why the people should care?" Good question. Not sure I answered well enough for him and even if so it may never see the light of print anyway, so I will answer it again here.
Of the 13 individuals covered under these agreement more than half of them are simply routine retirements or early retirements. But because they are all kept secret, it casts a shadow on those that are routine, as though they did something wrong.
When the town attorney informed the town manager he had to give up the documents, Mr. Musante requested another week to contact the former employees via snail mail to inform them that someone had been given their legal agreements.
And I'm sure some of them--even those who should not be--started to get nervous.
The highest payout ($44,000) was actually the most normal in that it was a very-high ranking employee with over thirty years of distinguished service. That settlement included unused vacation pay, sick time, personal days, longevity pay, etc.
Another woman who had left the same position Ms. "Jane Doe" occupied (administrative assistant to the town manager--and I'm told by multiple sources did a much better job) was not on the settlement list, because she received no money. Since she voluntarily resigned her town position for a better job at Amherst College, you would expect no such settlement.
So then why did "Jane Doe" get paid $22-K when she "voluntarily" resigned ten months later?
If the former town manager Larry Shaffer had used $22-K out of his $25-K going away present, then I would have not pursued this case so vigorously. But since it was all funded with tax dollars, I honestly believe the people have a right to know.