Severance packages are standard fare when it comes to negotiating contracts for city managers.
However, the severance package given to outgoing Bristol, Virginia city manager Dewey Cashwell has raised some eyebrows.
Cashwell's original contract provided for a six-month severance on his departure. That means the city agreed to continue to pay Cashwell's salary, as well as his health insurance and other fringe benefits, upon his departure.
However, Cashwell was able to negotiate a year-long severance deal that includes pay for accrued sick and vacation days, a package worth close to $125,000.
City leaders tell us a year-long package is standard. "Most city managers that are hired now have a year's severance package then, and since it was an amicable resignation, he asked for it. We negotiated back and forth and settled on a year, "said vice mayor Guy Odom.
Bristol city mayor Jim Steele doesn't feel the same way. "This is like giving him six months to go on vacation. Extra pay, "said Steele.
Mayor Steele was the only member of the five-person city council to vote "no" on Cashwell's new agreement. "I was not part of the agreement to sit down and go through this. This was a couple of council members. I would not participate in it for the simple reason of that I did not believe in this, "said Steele.
Mayor Steele felt the best course of action would have been to wait until Monday, when the city leadership goes through its annual reorganization, to make a decision. "You could have brought him in Monday and you could have turned around and had him resign before the meeting if he wanted to resign, vote him up or down," said Steele. "If he's voted out, he gets his six month severance, [and we] send him on his way."
"You can look at it both ways," said Odom. "But he deserves [the extension] as he resigns and we all go our happy way."
Mayor Steele feels the people of Bristol are left bearing the burden. "Tax payers and the City of Bristol have paid out enough money and they're still getting hit with another tax increase here lately and they just don't deserve this, " said Steele.