Severance unresolved for Basalt library director
BASALT – The Basalt Regional Library District board of directors is challenging a demand for a $26,232.40 severance package for the library’s former executive director.
“No severance has been paid,” David Smith, attorney for the board of directors, said Thursday.
Former executive director Kristen Becker’s attorney wrote a letter to the library district on Dec. 15 seeking the severance payment no later than Dec. 30, the last business day of 2011. The district declined to meet that deadline, but negotiations with Becker’s attorney are ongoing, Smith said.
He declined further comment on why the board didn’t make the payment. The board will hold its regularly monthly meeting Monday and will discuss the issue in an executive session, Smith said. He was uncertain whether the board will take any public action.
The dispute appears to be over the size of the severance payment rather than whether it will be given. Library board member Bud Eylar said the board set an upper limit on what it would pay Becker during an executive session at a special meeting in December. He couldn’t recall the exact amount the board instructed Smith to offer.
Becker rejected the district’s offer, Eylar said. He was uncertain whether she made a counteroffer.
Contacted in Salina, Kan., Becker said, “I have no comment because it’s a pending legal issue.”
Becker parted ways with the district Dec. 15 after serving as executive director for a little less than three years. She declined to accept an employment contract for 2012 after the board voted to reduce her benefits.
Becker’s health insurance benefits would have dropped from full family coverage in the amount of $1,159.48 per month to $300 per month. Her housing allowance was reduced by $10,000 annually, or about 34 percent. She also would lose any unused paid vacation time. Her old contract allowed her to carry over unused vacation time. She was getting 21 days of paid vacation per year. Becker’s $105,000 annual salary would have remained the same in 2012.
“Ms. Becker is not willing to accept these substantial and drastic reductions to her compensation,” said the Dec. 15 letter to the library district from Becker’s attorney, Anna Itenberg.
The letter stated that since Becker’s benefits were cut to a greater degree than those of other library employees, she was exercising an option to consider herself terminated. A provision of her 2011 employment contract said she could consider herself terminated and receive a severance payment if the board reduced her pay or benefits more than other eligible library employees.
The contract also says that if Becker were to resign, she wouldn’t be entitled to severance payment.
In the Dec. 15 letter, Becker said the severance pay she is due includes two months of salary, for $17,500; two months of housing allowance for $5,000; payment for 28 hours of paid vacation for $1,413.44; and two months of medical insurance coverage for $2,318.96.
Becker faced significant criticism from library patrons who formed a group last spring. They complained about Becker’s policies and somewhat cold management style . Members of the group urged the library district board at a special meeting in December to refuse to pay the severance package Becker demanded. The board of directors gave no indication at that time whether it would pay the severance package.
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