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City to pay Gay to go away

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Money comes without demand for release from court action

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

A disagreement about how much taxes to withhold from former Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay's severance check was decided Monday, and Mayor Teal Pomeroy says he hopes it is the last he hears of the man. 

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The commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Teresa Barron dissenting to pay Gay the $24,808 at the  25 percent tax withholding mandated by federal Internal Revenue Service regulations. Gay's attorney indicated his client was seeking a lower withholding rate. And, in  a final demand letter, told the city to pay the severance, plus $937.50 in attorney's fees by Wednesday, June 25, or Gay would take legal action. 

Interim City Manager Mary Ellzey said on Tuesday that Gay will be paid $16,708.18. The total comes after other deductions such as Social Security and Medicare are taken.

At the same time, the commission decided to not pay Gay's demand for almost $1,000 in attorney's fees and expenses. City Attorney Norm Fugate advised the commission that those charges only come into play when a suit is filed. 

The Chiefland City Commission effectively canned Gay at his first-year evaluation May 27. By a 3-2 vote, the commission decided against extending his one-year contract. Barron and Commissioner Rollin Hudson cast the dissenting votes. Gay left the meeting in a huff and vowed the city would hear from his attorney.

Then came the disagreement over how the check for $24,808 for 20 weeks pay should be taxed. The city's automated payroll system was “viewing” the check as one-week's pay, which bumped it up to a higher tax bracket than the normal one-week paycheck tax rate. 

In a letter dated June 17, Gay's attorney Lanny Russell, of Jacksonville, wrote, “It is appropriate that the City of Chiefland now agrees that Mr. Gay's severance payment should be 19,541.60 after taxes are withheld. 

But Gay objected to the withholding. After consulting with the city's accounting firm and IRS regulations the commission decided to go with the 25 percent in the IRS rules.  

The Chiefland City Commission effectively canned Gay at his first-year evaluation May 27. By a 3-2 vote, the commission decided against extending his one-year contract. Barron and Commissioner Rollin Hudson cast the dissenting votes. 

Gay left the meeting in a huff and promised the commission would hear from his attorney.

Because the commission did not inform Gay in writing  of the non-renewal before May 28, he invoked a clause in his contract that the city must pay him 20 weeks severance pay. 

One remaining point was settled without discussion on Monday: Gay will not be required to sign a release from further legal action in order to get his money. Gay's attorney, Lanny Russell of Jacksonville, wrote Russell wrote: “Mr. Gay will not execute a release in exchange for payment of the overdue severance owed. Mr. Gay, in the presence of his wife, told Mayor Teal Pomeroy that Mr. Gay expected to be paid his severance pay and there was no discussion of a release in this conversation.”

Pomeroy complained several times during Monday's meeting that he did not like Gay calling him a liar on that point. ”He called me a liar and that makes that difficult decision that I made (to let Gay go), I feel more comfortable about it now,” Pomeroy said. 

The mayor also said he wanted the issue settled once and for all. 

“I want to pay the man and be done with it,” Pomeroy said. “I don't want to have this in a meeting again and I will not give one penny more than is what in this contract and I would like to be done with this tonight.”