The City of Statesboro and Shane Haynes signed a separation agreement Wednesday that allows the former city manager to walk away with a $162,673.46 settlement check.
At the Sept. 21 City Council meeting, council members voted 4-1 to ask for Haynes' resignation. Councilman Travis Chance cast the lone dissenting vote. In that same vote, the council also agreed to accept Haynes resignation terms, which were not disclosed until Wednesday's agreement was signed.
Though the agreement outlines no specific reasons the council requested Haynes' resignation, the contract did specify that "the parties agree that the entire amount described in this paragraph is to settle claims for mental and emotional distress as well." In addition, the contract contains a clause that states the "employer (the city) agrees it will refrain from releasing or disclosing the circumstances surrounding an employee's resignation."
Councilman John Riggs said he understands that citizens are looking for answers, but added that he made his recent decision based on feedback from residents in his district.
"I understand that my constituents want to know why. And I can tell you, in all honesty, I have received dozens of phone calls from people in my district - District 4," Riggs said. "Now, I've got many more phone calls other than that from across the city and people who don't even live in the city, but from my constituents, every call but one was for a change in the city manager. I made the change because that's what my constituents asked for."
Chance said although the council should give the city's residents their reasons for making a particular decision, he said the non-disclosure agreement was a prudent move.
"I'll put it this way, I think the councilmen that pushed this issue knew that they had exposed themselves enough and that the citizens, once they found out there was not an actual valid reason - I think the non-disclosure agreement for the protection of the city was probably the best thing," Chance said.
According to the settlement agreement, Haynes will receive 12 months of his $115,000 annual salary as well as 12 months of his employee vehicle allowance, which is $600 per month. In addition, Haynes will receive all his accrued sick leave, vacation leave and 401(a) contributions to which the employee is entitled, and will be entitled to 12 months of health and dental benefits at the family coverage level.
According to Mayor Joe Brannen, the $162,673.43 figure does not include the cost of medical and dental benefits for the former city manager and his family. Human Resources Director Jeff Grant said Haynes' medical costs run approximately $126 per week, or $6,552 annually.
Whether medical and dental is included in the final figure, the settlement amount is significantly higher than the separation terms outlined in the employment contract Haynes signed when he became city manager in July 2008. According to that document, if the council asked for Haynes' resignation without cause, he was entitled to eight months salary and six months health and medical benefits. There is no mention of the car allowance in the employment contract.
All told, had the council simply accepted the employment contract terms, it is estimated that Haynes' payout would have been approximately $85,000, but could have left the city exposed to litigation. The separation agreement prevents Haynes from suing the city "for any alleged unlawful conduct relating to his employment."
Brannen said he thought the non-disclosure agreement was to protect the city from potential lawsuits.
"We felt like future claims might be filed against the city and, also to protect him, we needed a non-disclosure agreement. And, of course, (Haynes) did too," Brannen said. "As you know, I thought Shane was a capable city manager and would like to have seen him continue to be the city manager for Statesboro, but it didn't work out that way."
Chance said the city residents he's communicated with are clearly frustrated by the lack of information coming out of the council and city hall.
"The majority of what I'm getting from constituents via its email, phone call or face-to-face...it just seems to the citizens that there's a lack of willingness to take responsibility or to be held accountable to the citizens for the actions of the council," Chance said.
Councilman Gary Lewis said he hadn't seen the agreement and refused additional comment. Councilmen Tommy Blitch and Will Britt could not be reached for comment.
Phil Boyum may be reached at (912) 489-9454.