SELAH, Wash. -- Selah Mayor Sherry Raymond doesn’t anticipate renewing her effort to triple the city administrator’s severance package until sometime next year.
“We might look at it again in nine months or a year,” Raymond said. “I’ve been so busy I have not thought about it.”
But she said she still wants to protect City Administrator Don Wayman from being removed if a future mayor who opposed the policies Wayman carried out comes into office. She is proposing 18 months’ pay but said she is willing to look at 12 months’ pay instead.
However, some residents say it’s an issue that is best dropped.
“I don’t think it is something the city can afford,” said Shirley Johnson-Hoy, who unsuccessfully ran for City Council last year.
In August, Raymond proposed amending Wayman’s severance package to give him more than $180,000 if he were to be let go without cause. Wayman’s current contract would pay him half of his annual $122,000 salary if he is dismissed without cause.
Her recommendation came during a dispute between Wayman and the Selah Parks and Recreation Service Area board over the proposed aquatic center at Wixson Park. The dispute, in which Wayman questioned whether SPRSA could afford to build the full facility with just the $6.2 million bond approved by voters in November, led to hostile online comments directed at Wayman and Raymond.
Those comments, Raymond said, caused her to worry that if she were not re-elected in 2019, Wayman would lose his job. She said Wayman is working on projects that will take more than four years to come to fruition and is in the process of building a home in the city.
The severance package was initially tabled to allow the city’s staff to do research on whether any other cities in Eastern Washington offered similar packages.
Out of nine cities that responded to the city’s request for information, Ellensburg offered the largest severance package — 12 months, plus the value of any benefits, according to the survey conducted by Human Resources Director Andrew Potter.
Othello offered the lowest, at three months’ pay, the survey found, while Toppenish offered four months’ pay.
Cle Elum, Chelan, Union Gap, Pasco and Yakima offered six months’ pay — or, in Yakima’s case, it can also give the administrator six months’ notice that he will be dismissed.
Raymond admits that the 18 months she was proposing was unprecedented, but said she was concerned about seeing Wayman fired for political reasons if she does not get re-elected.
“If you have nothing in your files, it’s just not right to fire someone because you did not like them,” Raymond said. If it comes back, she said it might be just a year’s pay instead.
Johnson-Hoy said Raymond’s proposal represented an effort to force a new mayor to decide whether to risk a huge expense or keep an administrator who did not share the new mayor’s philosophies on government.
SPRSA member Bill Callahan, who has previously criticized Wayman, the city should stick with the severance package Wayman was hired under.
“If you think you should get a golden parachute because people might be ticked with you, you’ll probably tick off more people,” Callahan said.