A stand against public-paid golden parachutes
What happens when a top government administrator gets sent packing?
Often, lawyers for the employer and employee negotiate, a severance package is worked out, all agree never to say a word about what led to the departure -- and the taxpayers are kept in the dark with their wallets open, sometimes paying a six-figure bill for the administrator to go away. It happens all the time. Among recent cases:
• Former Libertyville administrator Chris Clark departed in March after a little more than one year at the helm with a severance package including $107,141 in pay and coverage of family health and dental insurance for six months.
• Four-year Vernon Hills manager and veteran village employee John Kalmar left in April with nearly $161,000, covering salary, unused vacation and sick pay, car allowance and retirement contributions.
• Former Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. got more than $127,000 in severance in November when he left amid sexual harassment accusations after a little more than a year of work.
A report by the Better Government Association tallied 11 examples since 2009 of six-figure severance packages. Together, they cost taxpayers more than $5.2 million.
Two bills before the Illinois General Assembly would curtail such practices. Senate Bill 3604, introduced by state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park, would cap severance payouts to equal 20 weeks of pay. It would eliminate severance pay for public employees fired for misconduct. It passed the Senate on Wednesday and moves to the House.
While we would not want to curtail the ability to recruit top employees, Cullerton said the 20-week cap is meant to allow governments to remain competitive.
House Bill 4242, introduced by state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills and inspired by Williams' case, would require local governments to provide public notice of any severance they give to an employee or contractor accused of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. The bill passed in the House and advanced to the Senate.
Both bills are a good start, and we urge lawmakers of both parties to get behind them. Then, we'd like to go further, with a bill that would require public disclosure of the reasons for the departure in every case where a top public administrator is collecting severance to hit the road before his or her contract is up.
Was there a serious infraction? Was there simply a personality clash? There's no excuse for keeping that from the public.