Basalt council, manager negotiate contract in public
January 20, 2016
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon was offered a 5 percent raise to a base salary of $161,869 Tuesday night, but he and the Town Council agreed to nix a proposal for him to receive 18 months of severance pay if he is fired without cause.
The council spent about 90 minutes conducting Scanlon's performance review and determining terms for a proposed new contract. It was a rare public review and negotiation for a local government employee. They are usually held in a private session. Scanlon requested the council hold the meeting in public to speed the process and dispel rumors that there is a rift between him and the council.
Under the terms of the proposal, Scanlon's base pay will increase from $154,161 to $161,869. He also will continue to get a $2,000 per month housing allowance, which is part of the current contract. The contract includes the town's health care and retirement benefits.
The only stumbling block came on a severance provision proposed by Scanlon. His current contract says he will get the equivalent of 12 months base pay and benefits in a lump sum if he is fired for political rather than performance reasons before Jan. 1, 2018.
Scanlon said that as Basalt considers development issues, the discussions will become "emotional" and contentious in the community, as evidenced by the current atmosphere. He can become a target for people who don't perceive he supports their position, he said. That could lead to him being fired for political rather than performance issues, he said. The severance package he suggested is meant to guard against that type of removal.
But Councilman Bernie Grauer insisted it was fiscally unacceptable for the town to put itself in a position to have to pay that large of sum. He said controversy goes with the territory for town managers serving in the Roaring Fork Valley.
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"There are always contentious issues rocking these towns back and forth," Grauer said.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum asked Scanlon if he would agree to 12 months of severance pay. Scanlon agreed. But the council majority also wanted the severance to be based on base salary and health benefits, not Scanlon's entire benefits package.
"I'd have to think about that," Scanlon said. He said he needed a week to get back to them.
After the meeting Scanlon said the provision isn't a deal breaker for the job for him, but an item he might want to negotiate further.
If they reach an agreement, the contract will run through Jan. 1, 2019. The severance would revert from 12 months to 8 months on Jan. 1, 2018. If they cannot reach an agreement, the current contract remains in effect. That contract is through Jan. 1, 2018, with an annual review.
Scanlon also received a generally glowing performance review. Members of the council asked him to improve his communication skills with them. Some complained he sometimes shares information with the media before them.
All council members credited Scanlon for the town's accomplishments during his three years at the helm. Councilman Rick Stevens said what Basalt accomplishes with 32 employees makes it the "envy" of other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley. "Other communities need 100 to do the same job," he said.