Supervisor Chris Koetzle plans to ask former town administrator Tony Germano to return about $3,600 in severance pay the Town Board granted him last week — a move Koetzle called improper.
Germano’s contract had expired and the incoming Republican administration eliminated the $94,000-a-year position as a cost-cutting move. The Town Board voted to give Germano two weeks’ pay at its year-end meeting last week. The cost is about $5,000 to the town with salary and benefits included, according to Koetzle.
Koetzle, who was not present at the meeting because of a work conflict, said the board’s action was not right.
“We’re concerned that it wasn’t a legal authorization of funds and if that turns out to be the case, we are committed to seeking restitution,” he said.
Koetzle said the resolution to grant severance pay was “pulled out of thin air.” The stated purpose of the meeting was to close out the town’s books and make routine transfers from one budget line item to another. Had he known that Germano’s severance was to be discussed, Koetzle said, he would have rearranged his schedule to attend. The meeting was not well publicized and there was no opportunity for public review of the severance request, nor time for a legal opinion, he said.
Koetzle asked the state comptroller’s office for guidance. He said the office responded that they do not offer opinions on decisions that have already been made but said that an audit could potentially flag the payment as a problem.
Koetzle said Article VIII, section 1 of the state Constitution prohibits municipalities from making gifts. Germano was still technically employed until Dec. 31.
Koetzle added that this has nothing to do with Germano or his assessment of his performance. “This has to do with whether it’s appropriate or not to authorize public money as a gift, essentially,” he said.
He is asking the town attorney to write a letter asking Germano to return the payment. If that doesn’t work, he said the town would have to explore its options.
“We’re just doing what we believe is right on behalf of the taxpayer,” he said.
Germano started working for the town in April 2007. His two-year contract expired at the end of 2008, and he was granted a one-year extension. The contract does not say anything about severance.
Koetzle said the board was initially going to grant Germano four weeks of severance pay but that was amended to two weeks. He is waiting to hear from the comptroller’s office to find out how to proceed.
Former Supervisor Frank Quinn said Germano deserved the severance for his work in managing the town’s finances to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and find hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. Also, Germano helped developers navigate the approval process.
“It was normal courtesy for someone who did that much work for so long,” he said.
Former Councilwoman Valerie DiGiandomenico said she believes Germano deserved the pay. “He was our biggest driver in economic development, bringing in developers,” she said.
Also, she said that since Germano would have needed to give the town a month’s notice if he were to take another job, she believes he was entitled to get some notice before being terminated.
Councilman Mark Quinn defended the expense, particularly since Germano was given notice only a few days before Christmas.
“Looking at severance packages, even in the private sector, it wasn’t excessive,” he said.
Quinn said he does not think it is necessary to retrieve the payment. “I’d hate to see that get personal between the supervisor and former town manager,” he said.
Former board member Edward Rosenberg did not return a message left for comment.
Germano also could not be reached for comment.
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