By DOTTY NIST
In a 3-2 vote on May 31, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted to terminate the employment of Greg Kisela, county administrator since June 2011.
The decision took place at a special meeting of the BCC at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
While the outcome was essentially the same, the decision negated one made nine days earlier by the commissioners in public session.
On May 22, after reporting a recent meeting between himself, Kisela, the county attorney and the county human resources director, District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen had presented in written form a “motion to accept the voluntary resignation in good standing of Greg Kisela, effective June 22, 2012…” Attached to the motion were conditions, including payment to Kisela of “all accrued and unpaid salary and benefits, including vacation time” and severance pay equal to six months’ salary. The administrator’s salary was $132,000 per year. A third condition stated: “Such payments shall be full and complete payment and satisfaction of any claims that Mr. Kisela may have against the county.”
That motion had been approved 3-2, with no discussion and no comment by Kisela.
However, in the wake of the decision the public had raised concerns about the legality of the action, which had seemed at odds with Kisela’s employment agreement. The employment agreement had provided only for unpaid salary up to the final day of employment and benefits earned, including vacation, to be provided upon departure, unless the administrator were terminated by the county “without cause.” However, the conditions in the employment agreement for a termination without cause mirrored those in the agreement presented by Pridgen. That agreement had been characterized as a mutual one, and the employment agreement had not set conditions for a mutually-agreed-to departure of the county administrator.
Bob Hudson, executive director of the Walton County Taxpayers Association (WCTA) had also raised the issue of whether the departure agreement was in violation of a new state law placing restrictions on severance pay.
Due to the concerns raised, Kisela had not followed through with the agreement approved by the commissioners on May 22 and had not submitted a letter of resignation. He had commented that his resignation was contingent on the severance pay being provided.
At the May 31 special meeting, Assistant County Administrator Gerry Demers explained that there had been confusion as to whether Kisela would be able to receive the severance package in full in connection with the BCC action on May 22. He presented the commissioners with the option of rescinding their earlier decision and voting to terminate Kisela without cause “to clear all that up.”
Kisela was not present at the special meeting, but Demers said the administrator had indicated that he would be all right with such an action.
County Attorney Toni Craig explained that the option would be to proceed in accordance with the section of Kisela’s employment agreement providing for a termination “without cause.” “That would clarify the issue,” she said.
First, a motion to rescind the previous commission action regarding Kisela was approved.
Then, a motion to approve the option outlined by Demers and Craig, with Kisela to receive the full severance package, including the amount equal to six month’s salary, with an effective date of June 22, carried in a 3-2 vote. Pridgen, County Commission Chairman Scott Brannon, and District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander cast aye votes; District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones and District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones voted no.
As on May 22, there was no discussion by the commission of the reason for Kisela’s departure. Chairman Brannon did not open up the session to public comment until after the commission actions….
Read the full story in the June 7, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.