Somers Finance Board appropriates funds for officials’ severance pay | Somers

SOMERS — Despite an ongoing dispute over former First Selectman CG “Bud” Knorr’s severance pay, the Board of Finance voted this week to appropriate the full $130,056.56 requested by retiring employees to an employee payout account that will be used for increased sick and vacation time.

The motion, which was unanimously approved, also stipulates that retiring civil service employees will be paid forthwith but elected officials’ requests will be subject to an independent audit.

At issue for the Board of Selectmen, and to a degree for the Board of Finance, is how much the town owes Knorr for increased sick and vacation time.

First Selectman Timothy RE Keeney met with the Board of Finance on Tuesday to report on mid-year salary adjustments and severance pay requests. He said selectmen are not in agreement on the amount Knorr claims to be owed and are still validating data for his severance pay. Officials in October put that amount at $24,460.

Keeney said the selectmen are not in favor of appropriating the full severance payments for retiring employees at this time.

Members of the Finance Board want the full amount of money requested for severance pay to be in the employee payout account so it’s there as officials clear up exactly what is owed to Knorr.

Board Chairman Michael D. Parker said the entire amount does not have to be appropriated should a discrepancy be discovered, but it’s there in case the selectmen come to a settlement with Knorr.

The town’s employee handbook is ambiguous in sections, particularly when it comes to severance pay for elected officials, several members of the Finance Board said. Board member Joseph Tolisano said all town employees get a letter about their benefits but elected officials don’t have clear directions.

“We’re trying to get to a point of agreement,” Parker said. “Let’s get this laid out on a piece of paper so all officials who are subject to it are clear on the rules.

He agreed with Tolisano that the employee handbook is not clear about severance pay for elected officials’ increased sick and vacation time. “If there’s going to be disagreement about this you can take our recommendation to prepare a detailed list of pay and benefits for the elected officials,” Parker said. “It’s an option to help you.”

Board member Ralph Williams said selectmen shouldn’t change the rules for someone after they walked out the door.

“Bud followed the regulations that others did,” he said. “It’s good you changed it going forward.” Selectmen recently voted that newly elected officials would not receive the same severance pay.

Parker said his main difficulty with the issue is that the boards do not have all the facts.

“The only way we will get the facts is to exercise the authority we do have and have this matter looked into by an independent audit,” he said. “An audit will put the cards on the table and allow us to know who is right, and who is wrong.”

Keeney said an attorney would be better at settling disputes about pay owed to Knorr.

Parker said an auditor can say whether the town needs a legal opinion and he would be happy to have the independent third party decide who to consult for a legal opinion.

Voters at a town meeting in October rejected transferring $130,980 from the general fund into the account for severance payments for retiring employees because they want officials to first look into what exactly the employees are owed in sick and vacation time.

At that date, the payouts were estimated at: Knorr, $24,460; former Library Director Jessica Miller, $11,250; Town Clerk Ann Logan, $56,493; and Health Inspector Steve Jacobs, $48,774.

For more coverage of Somers and Ellington, follow Susan Danseyar on Twitter: @susandanseyar, Facebook: Susan Danseyar, reporter.

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