A new mayor almost certainly will cost Fresnans big bucks in severance payouts to top City Hall executives.
The key question: How many? If anyone at City Hall knows, they’re not saying.
Based on my rough calculations, the 15 highest ranking “at will” executives in the administration of Mayor Ashley Swearengin would collect a total of more than $1.5 million in “golden handshakes” if they were terminated next year.
Swearengin is termed out in January. “At will” means the executive isn’t part of a union and serves at the pleasure of the mayor or city manager. Since the mayor hires and fires the city manager, the survival of at will employees in practice depends solely on the mayor’s whim.
New mayors, like new governors and new presidents, have a strong tendency to bring in their own top executives.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of severance money, let me add that coming up with precise numbers is impossible for an outsider like me. What I’ve got comes from contracts posted on the City Clerk’s website (thank you, Fresno Bee reporter John Ellis, for making that happen by your reporting of last November).
Most of the contracts are about two years old, which means those executives may have received a raise or two since the deals were signed. If so, I don’t know such details.
Some contracts include a specified number of months of healthcare premiums to be paid after the executive leaves City Hall. I’m not clear on those costs to the public. (I’m told the monthly premium is $1,166. I don’t know if that includes the employee’s co-pay.)
All of the executives would receive money for unused “leave time.” I don’t know how much leave time these executives have to cash out.
And it’s important to note that an executive wouldn’t get the golden handshake if the new mayor decides to keep her on the job. By all accounts, these 15 City Hall executives do an excellent job.
So, when I say the theoretical cost to taxpayers of a mass exodus of terminated executives tops $1.5 million, I’m most likely on the conservative side.
It’s all taxpayer/ratepayer money.