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Gay refuses city settlement

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

When the Chiefland City Commission meets on Monday it will have to decide what it wants to do about former City Manager Kevin Gay's rejection of a proposed settlement.

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."

The letter is part of a packet attached to the agenda for Monday's meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Russell added: “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.”

The attorney wrote this is a final demand to pay the severance, plus $937.50 in attorney's fees by Wednesday, June 25, or Gay will take legal action.

Gay was effectively canned at his first-year evaluation May 27, after commissioners, in a 3-2 vote, decided against extending the city manager’s one-year contract. Commissioners Betty Walker and Chris Jones and Pomeroy said Gay’s bad attributes outweighed the good.

Gay left the meeting in a huff and promised the commission it would be hearing from his attorney.

But while the commission decided against extending or re-negotiating Gay's contract it missed a deadline to inform Gay of that decision in writing before his contract expired at midnight on May 27.

The letter, sent by the city was postmarked May 28.

As a result, Gay invoked a clause in the contract that has the city on the hook for 20 weeks severance pay.

Commissioner Rollin Hudson – who, along with Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, voted in favor of keeping Gay on – had asked that if the commission agreed to extend Gay’s position as city manager that his contract be revised to include a four-week severance, similar to the police and fire chiefs' contracts.

At a June 9 commission meeting, Pomeroy said he had talked to Gay and confirmed from him that if the city were to pay the severance the former city manager would not pursue future legal action.

City Attorney Norm Fugate said he’d spoken with Gay’s attorney and said there’s not a 100 percent certainty that it couldn’t go further. Fugate said he wasn’t convinced that Gay was entitled to the severance, but, he said, if it goes to court there’s about a 50 percent chance the city could lose. And there’s 100 percent chance the legal fees will be more than the severance sought.

Fugate said, in his estimation, paying the severance would prevent any further trouble and he recommended getting a release from Gay waiving further legal action.

The commission vote for the settlement offer was 4-1 with Barron dissenting.

Barron said after the meeting that while she was in favor of Gay getting his severance, she voted no “in protest” of his being let go in the first place.

This story incorporates information from an earlier story by Mark Scohier.