West Jordan city on Thursday released details of a generous severance package for Richard Davis, the city manager who abruptly resigned this week without explanation.
Although his last day in office was Wednesday, Davis will officially be on "administrative leave" and available for "consulting" through next June, with full salary and benefits. He’ll also be paid for already accrued and calculated leave time through the period. The deal also grants Davis continued payments equal to his $430 monthly car allowance and gives him the city-owned cellphone and tablet in his possession.
Approved by the City Council Wednesday night — but not released until Thursday — the deal puts no overall dollar amount on the deal, but based on hourly salary and a calculation of benefits, it appears to be worth about $200,000.
It was the second case in a month where West Jordan-area taxpayers will be paying a generous amount for a public official leaving his government job.
The board of the Jordan School District — which covers a much larger area than the city — voted July 22 to buy former deputy superintendent Burke Jolley out of his contract, a package worth at least half a million dollars. Under that agreement, made amid threats of a district split, the district will pay Jolley $193,379 in salary and bonuses over 11 months, benefits until he’s eligible for full Social Security and retirement service credit conservatively estimated at $235,000 or more.
In the Davis deal, West Jordan Mayor Kim Rolfe did not immediately return a phone message Thursday evening. But Councilman Justin Stoker said in an interview that the severance was well justified, and that Davis "deserves the best. … Rick is an honest man and I want to make sure that everybody knows that."
Included in the agreement is a guarantee that city council members and officials will not say or do anything to disparage Davis. And the resigned manager promises the same in regard to city officials.
Signed by Davis and all council members, the agreement acknowledges the severance is more generous than a resigned employee would normally get.
"In return for these additional benefits, [Davis] will give up certain rights and claims [he] may possibly have against the city and will provide the city with certain assurances that are important to the city," the agreement says.
Those important assurances, according to the vague language of the document, are a waiver of "all claims known and unknown, asserted or unasserted" that Davis may have against the city based on violation of age-discrimination laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, anti-discrimination laws or any other legal claims.
Asked if such claims had been a possibility, Stoker said: "I think there may be a case of that or else that language wouldn’t have been there. … Definitely there was that concern there. Also, with the addition of the disparagement [language] there was some concern that the disparagement stop."
For its part, the city agrees to defend and indemnify Davis against any claims or legal actions against the city tied to his three years running the day-to-day operations of the municipality of 108,000. This blanket waiver of liability for Davis does not mention any specific claim.
But Davis is a defendant in a federal civil-rights suit filed last month by justice court clerk supervisor Shelley Thomas. Among other allegations, the suit alleges Thomas was sexually harassed by one of the city attorneys and was intimidated and threatened into helping city officials illegally retrieve documents from the office of Justice Court Justice Ronald Kunz.
Kunz, who was criminally charged for illegal dissemination of a defendant’s criminal history, was acquitted of the misdemeanor last year. He recently settled a notice of claim against the city for $10,000 in legal fees, on top of $32,000 previously paid by the city for Kunz’s attorney expenses in the criminal case, along with a guarantee that he would be granted a one-hour closed-door session with the city council to discuss personnel matters.
Davis’ resignation was abruptly announced Tuesday, one day after The Tribune published a story detailing the nasty, three-year legal battle between the city administration and the justice court. It also came amid disclosure that first-term council member Jeff Haaga had raised questions about Davis’ moonlighting for an Arizona-based consulting firm providing services for local governments.
Davis was listed as a senior executive for the firm and had been associated with it for eight years, encompassing the entire tenure of his position as West Jordan City manager.
While Davis’ affiliation with the consulting firm — working with cities from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Sitka, Alaska — was nowhere listed in his bio published on the West Jordan website, city officials said it was disclosed on the resume submitted when he applied for the post and also in a disclosure form on file with the city.
Haaga declined comment Thursday on the moonlighting concerns and civil-rights lawsuit. He also would not say anything about the severance package.
But Stoker said he wanted to make it clear there was nothing nefarious in Davis’ departure.
"I think Davis is an honest man, and I think many of the allegations against him were unfounded," he said. "With all of the speculation out there, I want everybody to understand that Rick is truly an honest and good man. … That’s what troubled him the most was he gave everything to the city only to have it result in this unfortunate situation."
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