Paid To Quit: City of Lubbock Spends $555,000 - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/28/06

Paid To Quit: City of Lubbock Spends $555,000

In Part I of our investigation we told you that because of agreements between Dr. David Smith and Regents, Texas Tech is paying him what he would have made in salary over the next two years.

2/23/06
Paid To Quit: Smith's $1.1 Million Dollar Deal
How would like to quit your job and get paid for leaving? Sounds unrealistic, right? But the fact is, you have paid several government officials more than $1.5 million to leave their job in just three years. NewsChannel 11's Cecelia Coy takes a look at where $1.1 million of that money went.

That totals nearly $1.1 million. In Part II, we find out why the city of Lubbock shelled out nearly half a million dollars to three city managers. But a few years ago, the city council has actually made changes to the way they pay severance.

Those changes were made after the city paid its second city manager $200,000 to leave his job. But the fact is, the city has handed out half a million dollars three years in a row.

NewsChannel 11 continued to look into big governmental payouts. We found that six years ago, the city created the biggest severance deals in the city's history. In 2000, the former city council, under the leadership of then-Mayor Windy Sitton, who is now serving as a regent for Texas Tech University, created a five year "golden parachute" for two city employees; former city manager Bob Cass and city attorney Anita Burgess.

The deal meant that if they were fired one year after they were hired, Cass could get paid $900,000 and Burgess could get $791,000. That is four years worth of salary.

When Cass retired three years into his contract, a new council was in place with a new mayor, Marc McDougal. "I don't think those are good severance packages for the citizens of Lubbock," said the Mayor.

McDougal says he and the council negotiated a one year severance deal for Cass, in the amount of $225,000. Cass took it, even though he had two years left on his contract and could have been paid more under the "golden parachute." McDougal says Cass just wanted out of his job. At the time, two city councilmen, Gary Boren and Tom Martin, were uncovering money mismanagement issues at Lubbock Power and Light.

McDougal also says Cass was still recovering from the death of a Lubbock police officer. On July 13, 2001, officer Kevin Cox was killed by another officer during a botched swat operation.

The year after Cass retired, the city shelled out another $200,000. This time to pay interim city manager Tommy Gonzalez to leave his job. Gonzalez left his job when the city council no longer considered him a candidate for the permanent city manager position.

After two straight years of paying severance, the city decided to change the city's "golden parachute." "This council made a decision two years ago that what we were going to offer was a six month severance," said Mayor McDougal.

Soon after, the city hired Lou Fox. Fox, who had only been at the job for just over a year, resigned and the city paid him a six month severance valued at $130,000.

NewsChannel 11 asked Mayor McDougal if it is fair to tax payers to pay top managers to leave? He says severance are handled on a case-by-case basis. "I don't believe someone should be paid severance to quit," said the Mayor. "What if they retire? Isn't that the same thing as quitting?" we asked. "Yes it is," answered McDougal. "So why pay them?" we asked, "Cass retired, why pay him the money?" McDougal said, "That was again under than type of severance agreement. That was a different situation. That was a negotiated settlement with Bob Cass." "Lou Fox?" we said. "Read between the lines," McDougal said.

When we asked the Mayor why the city council continues to use severance agreements. He gave us two answers. First, they are a recruiting tool. "I want whoever is right next door to this one to be someone the Dallas city council wants to come hire." McDougal also explained that severance are a common practice with most cities because they act as an insurance policy when new council members are elected. "Whether or not they keep you or don't keep you may not be your fault and so at least they have some security," said McDougal.

City attorney Anita Burgess is still employed with the city. McDougal says she is the only employee who has the "golden parachute." If she were to leave today, she could be paid a one year severance valued at approximately $197,800 plus her benefits. Current city manager Lee Ann Dumbauld falls under the "new" six month severance policy. If she were to leave today, she could be paid roughly $112,000.

Another top public figure who resigned from his job was not paid a severance. Former Lubbock I.S.D. Superintendent Dr. Jack Clemmons was paid $65,141 for 87 days of leave accrued prior to, and during his tenure. UMC Health Systems is also funded through tax dollars. You may want to know that if UMC's President and CEO Jim Courtney is terminated, quote "without good cause," his contract allows him to be paid his salary for two years, which is $738,302.

NewsChannel 11 Special Reports
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