St. Charles aldermen inked a third temporary contract extension with City Administrator Brian Townsend Monday night. But in order for the third time to be a charm, both parties will have to come to terms on a clause in Townsend's existing contract that would make life without Townsend just as costly as it currently is with him.
Taxpayers are on the hook to pay Townsend one year of his aggregate salary, plus all employment benefits except for a vehicle allowance, if and when aldermen ever decide to terminate his contract. That's a payout of at least $210,000 if Townsend and the city were to part ways for any reason except the commission of a crime, misconduct or negligence.
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In fact, the St. Charles taxpayers would possibly still be on the hook even if Townsend found another job. If the compensation for that new job was less than Townsend currently earns, St. Charles would have to pay the difference for one year.
"The severance pay is to be provided in consideration of employee's years of service to the city ... and in recognition of the nature of the position held and the difficulty municipal administrators have in obtaining comparable alternative employment," reads the contract.
Both Townsend and St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina have declined to publicly the specific obstacles in the current contract negotiations. However, Rogina has said he has no personal or job performance gripes with Townsend.
"I would like to bring this to a timely conclusion sooner rather than later," Rogina said Monday night.
While the city's current elected officials are maintaining a public silence on the process, former Mayor Don DeWitte said in an interview that the severance package was agreed to by himself and aldermen four years ago for one simple reason -- Townsend earned it, DeWitte said.
"In his eight-year track record with the city, if you go in and look at his performance reviews when I was there, the guy has been absolutely flawless from an operational, philosophical and morality standpoint," DeWitte said. "If he's not the best administrator in the state, I'm not sure who is."
DeWitte pointed out several of the current aldermen signed off on Townsend's current contract, including the severance clause.
"It seems a little disingenuous that 48 months later you would decide that clause in his contract may appear to be overly generous," DeWitte said. "Given the current economic climate, it is certainly the norm."
Lucrative severance packages for high-level government employees are not unheard of. In California, for example, the state limits severance pay to 18 months base salary. Sample severance agreements readily available on the Internet show a range of six to 12 months of severance pay is relatively common across the nation.