Former Fontana City Manager Made Nearly $ 1 Million Without One Day Working In 2020 – San Bernardino Sun
A payment of nearly $ 1 million to former Fontana city manager Ken Hunt made him California’s highest-paid city manager in 2020, though he didn’t actually work a single day this year.
The California State Comptroller’s Office put the spotlight on Fontana this week after updating its public salary database with figures for 2020. In the state’s rankings, Hunt topped by about $ 350,000 the salary of the nearest city manager.
Fontana’s high salary and lack of explanation have raised eyebrows among taxpayer advocates. While golden handshakes for public employees are not unusual, most are between $ 500,000 and $ 600,000, experts said.
Robert Fellner, Executive Director of Transparent California, has spent years collecting, compiling and publishing civil servant salaries. He has seen his fair share of generous severance packages, he said. But when presented with the $ 932,623 paid to Hunt in 2020, his first instinct was that the number must be a mistake.
“Paying someone $ 1 million a year not to work is the highest I have ever seen,” he said.
“Resigned to retire”
Officially, Hunt announced his retireest in July 2019, when he was roughly halfway through a five-year contract. City officials in reports at the time described it as a mutual decision. It was only months later that it was revealed that the beloved city manager and the city had signed a settlement agreement specifying the terms of his resignation.
At the time, Mayor Acquanetta Warren said Hunt “had resigned himself to retiring” and refused to explain why. Hunt’s contract and the settlement agreement suggest that Hunt either received a privileged deal or made claims that could have cost the city significantly more.
If Hunt had voluntarily resigned, Fontana would not have owed him any severance pay, according to his last contract. Instead, the city council went beyond even the required 12 months of compensation if he had fired him without cause. Although he immediately stopped working in July 2019, the city agreed to pay him not only for the remainder of 2019, but also for the whole of 2020.
Authorized to reach 30 years of employment
The extra months, which were counted as paid time off, allowed Hunt to reach 30 years of employment and start receiving a monthly pension of $ 16,707 in February 2020, according to a settlement agreement released by the city. and pension data collected by Transparent california.
Fontana ultimately paid Hunt $ 1,127,378 in wages and benefits from July 6, 2019 to January 31, 2020, according to calculations provided by the city. That’s roughly the equivalent of three years of Hunt’s salary in 2019.
The bulk of the payment – the $ 932,623 reported to the State Comptroller – was split over three paychecks in January 2020. It included $ 312,865 in “settlement allowance,” $ 476,772 in paid leave. (equivalent to about a year and a half of accumulated leave), and an additional $ 64,137 for “longevity”.
Additionally, Fontana paid a combined total of $ 386,582 to the two men who ruled the town in place of Hunt: Interim City Manager Michael Milhiser, who managed the city from July 2019 to April 2020, and Director current municipal Mark Denny, who was hired this April.
A city spokesperson provided a copy of the settlement agreement and the list of payments to Hunt. She referred to the settlement agreement when asked why the town paid more than what Hunt’s contract demanded.
Mother of the city council
No member of city council could be reached for comment. Hunt did not respond to a call for comment.
The settlement agreement states that upon signing, Hunt would be placed on paid leave effective July 12, 2019 and “would not report to the employer’s facilities, perform any duties, or act on behalf of of the employer in any capacity ”. The paid leave was to continue until his resignation on January 31, 2020. After his resignation, the city was to pay him 12 months of his base salary, plus a longevity bonus, and continue to provide him with health benefits for a period of time. at least a year. unless he finds another job.
In return, Hunt waived his rights to any potential claims against the city, agreed not to defame city council, and said he would not share his “subjective opinion regarding (settlement) negotiations, the terms of this agreement or its previous use. “
“In the event of an investigation, the employee can only respond by indicating that the separation was amicable”, specifies the agreement.
It is not known exactly when city council approved the settlement agreement. The city spokesperson was unable to provide the minutes of the meeting, the date of the meeting or a tally of votes on the agreement until the holiday weekend. Agendas for the two months immediately preceding Hunt’s sudden exit did not appear to show any applicable points behind closed doors.
California’s Brown Law requires public agencies to specifically list closed-door items for terminations, even if the city does not, enough time has passed that it is no longer possible to cancel the action.
The most troubling part of the payment is the complete secrecy about what happened, according to Transparent California’s Fellner. The fact that Fontana paid more than Hunt’s contract demands could be interpreted as “secret money,” he said.
“The government can’t pay somebody $ 1 million not to work without telling the taxpayers who foot the bill why,” Fellner said.
Scott Kaufman, the legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, agreed.
“If the public doesn’t believe these dollars are being spent appropriately, they have the right to remove elected officials in the next election, or even recall them,” Kaufman said. “It’s not the town of Fontana’s money, it’s taxpayers’ money. If they do not get that accounting and are actively prevented from getting that accounting, they have the right, throughout the electoral process, to have their voices heard through other means.