County’s top staff contracts won’t contain ‘golden parachutes’

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Contracts with upper levels of county staff will not be as lucrative going forward, commissioners have decided.

At a recent Board of County Commissioners meeting, the commissioners decided that the three top staff members under the County Attorney and County Administrator will be given 60 days notice upon firing and no severance package. But the policy changes won’t affect the current Assistant County Administrator, Deputy County Attorney, or Assistant County Attorney. The employees currently in those positions will be grandfathered in to some extent, granting them some severance in the event their bosses decide to let them go.


However, their amount of severance entitlement will be pared down to – at most – four months of salary.

Before the policy change, they could have received as much as one month of severance for every year worked at the county – up to 12 months.

Commissioner Wesley Davis and three other commissioners approved the employment contract policy changes, noting that the county needs some way of allowing County Attorney Alan Polackwich and County Administrator Joe Baird to remove staff as needed.

Davis added that they also need a way to “limit lucrative golden parachutes.”

Commissioner Gary Wheeler, who has been a constant opponent of employee contracts, told his fellow commissioners he would only support the policy changes if it meant the end of contracts for those under Polackwich and Baird once the current employees are no longer with the county.

Wheeler said he does not approve of contracts beyond those for Polackwich and Baird because he prefers they initiate progressive discipline process – a right all other employees have.

He added that contracts would allow the employer – the County Attorney and County Administrator – to “quietly get rid of someone” due to personality conflicts.

To allow future commission boards flexibility, this board of commissioners agreed to allow the County Attorney and the County Administrator the ability to request a “special circumstance” that would allow them to offer a severance package to a potential hire. Only the Board of County Commissioners would be allowed to approve the severance after hearing why the potential hire should have one.

“The ‘no severance’ policy could create a recruitment or retention challenge in the future with specific individuals that the county strongly wants to hire or retain,” Polackwich wrote in his memo to the board.

The “special circumstance” could be that the individual possesses special or unique abilities the county needs and that recruitment or retention of the individual would not be possible if not for a severance package offer.

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