The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 21, 2013

City Attorney resigns, will receive six-month severance package

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

---- — CLINTON — With his resignation accepted by the Clinton City Council, City Attorney Jeff Farwell will leave with a $56,000 severance package. 

Friday, during their last meeting of the year, members of the Clinton City Council accepted Farwell's resignation and approved a separation agreement double what his contract stipulated. 

On a 5-1 vote, the council gave Farwell six months of severance pay and six months of health insurance. The package will be in effect Jan. 2, Farwell's last day, and will cost the city $45,646 for salary payments and $10,920 for health insurance premiums.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee voted against the severance package while Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman was absent. 

First, council members had to accept Farwell's resignation, which was requested during the time slotted for his performance evaluation at the Dec. 10 council meeting. The acceptance passed 6-0. 

Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann said she disagreed with Farwell's performance evaluation being done in the open, which he asked be done during the Dec. 10 meeting. She applauded him for being an excellent attorney and decried the animosity towards him that comes from some current and some incoming council members, referencing the lawsuits against the city that her replacement, Ed O'Neill is involved in and the negative scores some sitting council members gave on his performance evaluation. 

"That, along with the derogatory comments and actions from incoming council members convinced me that it's in the best interest of both the city and Jeff, that he resign and allow the new council to choose someone new to represent them," Hermann said.

Accepting Farwell's resignation was followed by some confusion surrounding how much money it should cost.

Farwell’s contract states if he is asked to resign while still being able to do his job, as he was, he would receive three months of aggregate salary. At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf during the last meeting asked for a six- month severance considering it was what former City Administrator Jeff Horne received when he left the city last year. 

The contract makes no mention of severance if he voluntarily resigns without the council first asking him to tender his resignation. 

During Friday's meeting Graf made a motion amending the severance package to three months, which is what Farwell's contract states.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes voiced support for the six-month severance given the "undue stress" Farwell has been under since he started in 2010.

Farwell told council members he signed a contract that would afford him three months of severance pay if he resigned at the council's request.

"There's been some alluding to the city administrator's contract, that he went out with six months. That's what his contract said. That's what he signed up for," Farwell said. "So, I don't know. You're going to have to decide, but that's what I signed."

The motion to amend the severance to three months failed 4-2 due in part to Hermann voting 'no' when she meant to vote 'yes.'

"I voted wrong," she said after the votes had been tallied while offering an apology. "I should have said 'yes' to change it." 

Although an amendment to the amendment could have been offered so Hermann could vote as she intended, Graf declined, leaving the three-month severance package behind. Graf clarified she did not join At-large Councilman John Rowland and Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee in voting in favor of the three-month deal because a tie would have sent the motion to the next meeting, and the next council.

Farwell's severance package will come from the city attorney budget, which has money remaining from the $250,000 that it was bolstered with for the legal malpractice trial the city lost in October. 

Following the meeting, Mayor Mark Vulich told the Herald he doesn't know if he will veto the resolution, sign it and put it into effect or let it go into effect without his signature.

"I have 14 days to decide what I'm going to do," he said.

ARTICLE: Farwell created wording for resignation request