The Salida City Council approved a motion to authorize the city attorney to enter into negotiations to settle with Dara McDonald, the former city administrator, concerning severance during their meeting March 5.
“We’ve received communications as of late” from McDonald about her employment agreement “and the severance that was associated with it,” according to Councilman Dan Shore.
Shore explained he wished to make a motion to authorize the city attorneys to enter into negotiation with McDonald “to settle in the amount of $51,053, representing the six months’ severance duly owed to her pursuant to her employment contract with the City of Salida.”
The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Jane Templeton.
“I fully recognize that during her tenure as city administrator she had both vocal supporters and vocal critics, and what we’re discussing here … evening has nothing to do with whether someone liked or didn’t like her,” Shore said.
Shore offered clarification; “It has to do with the rule of law, and the city’s legal obligations.” He continued, saying the city attorney had taken a “comprehensive look at this” and had determined that with McDonald’s termination “it was clear she was terminated before the end of her employment term… and that her termination was without cause,” said Shore.
In the agreement with McDonald, there were clear criteria for the causes that would prohibit McDonald from receiving severance pay. “There were three key points,” Shore said. The first scenario would be for gross negligence or willful malfeasance of responsibilities or duties of requirements under the agreement.
“The second would be a conviction of a felony of moral turpitude,” Shore added. The third scenario would be for a prolonged unexcused absence from employment, other than for a disability reason due to mental or physical illness. “And we’ve ascertained that there were no facts established, no arguments made, to support the idea that she was terminated for cause under these three criteria,” said Shore, who noted that he saw this as an opportunity to “make this right.”
“It’s not just for Ms. McDonald, but I think about anyone today that has an employment agreement with the city— it sends a really strong message if we honor something like this…” said Shore, adding that the city is in the process of hiring a finance director.
“I really think this speaks volumes about our commitment to honoring our agreements,” Shore said.
Councilwoman Cheryl Brown-Kovacic said that she believed this was a legal obligation of the city.
“There is documentation that she was terminated, I think from several different sources — it was three different sources,” said Brown-Kovacic. “I think that we are obligated legally due to the contract and the way the contract was written, and I think we need to follow through with this.”
Councilman Harald Kasper added that he agreed, as did Templeton.
The motion passed unanimously on a 6-0 vote.