Boothbay Harbor responds to Boothbay Register FOIA request on Woodin resignation

Town attorney: Town paid Woodin $64,525 under departure terms, including six months’ pay
Mon, 11/18/2019 - 5:45pm

    Boothbay Register made a Freedom of Information Act request to Boothbay Harbor selectmen Oct. 21 seeking records and information pertaining to former town manager Tom Woodin’s resignation dated July 1 and selectmen’s unanimous approval July 8.

    Information requested included Woodin's contracts dating back to 2018, town expenditures since June 2019 dealing with Woodin's departure, scheduling of payments, and correspondence between selectmen dealing with Woodin's departure.

    On Oct. 28, the newspaper received by mail a response dated Oct. 24 from Matthew Tarasevich of Bernstein Shur, counsel for the town. The packet provided a contract extending Woodin’s employment for three years which was effective on May 4, 2010; an addendum dated Aug. 27, 2012 and ratified on Nov. 14, 2012 which extends the contract three years from June 30, 2013; a copy of the Town of Boothbay Harbor’s Personnel Manual; and a cover letter outlining what was  provided.

    According to the packet, the town expended $4,130 in legal fees “directly and indirectly related to the departure” and all payments to Woodin were made in accordance with the rules outlined in the contracts or in the personnel manual.

    Lastly, the letter maintained that a request for correspondence between selectmen regarding Woodin’s resignation could not be provided because the town has no such records available “to the extent they are not otherwise protected by law, statute or privilege.”

    In an Oct. 28 email followup with Tarasevich, Boothbay Register asked why the contracts from 2010 and 2012 were provided, but none since or from the past two years. Tarasevich responded Nov. 7, the two contracts were the only ones on record, with the 2010 contract representing all agreements not covered in the personnel manual between Woodin and the town. Woodin had been town manager since 2006. “There was no ‛separation agreement’ between Mr. Woodin and the Town. His existing employment contract set forth the financial terms of his departure,” Tarasevich noted.

    The contract terms amounted to $64,525.50: $13,192.70 for five weeks of unused vacation and sick time, $46,352.80 representing six months of pay, and $4,980 for six months’ value of unused insurance. Said Tarasevich, “Those amounts were paid on or around August 1, 2019.”

    Among the agreements and responsibilities outlined in the 2010 contract, Woodin was provided with a salary of $67,000 including benefits. The 2012 addendum continued the agreement. Minutes dating back to 2014 which are available online revealed salary raises in February 2017, December 2017 and July 2018 – $86,000; $90,000 and $92,700, respectively.

    According to July financial records and Woodin’s effective resignation date for July 31, Woodin was also paid about $7,100 for administrative leave through July 31.

    Terms of termination outlined in Woodin’s 2010 contract provide for three scenarios: Termination with cause, termination without cause and voluntary resignation. Termination with cause provides notice and a hearing and the town has no payment obligations. Termination without cause before the expiration of the term of employment yields a “lump sum cash payment equal to six (6) months salary” and “six (6) months of the Town’s contribution towards the cost of health insurance premiums.” Vacation and sick time are provided regardless of the nature of termination. Finally, rules for voluntary resignation before expiration of the employment term are simply one month’s notice unless otherwise agreed upon.

    Two final questions were asked of Tarasevich: Under what circumstances were the legal fees incurred? And was Woodin's compensation a contractual obligation or was it due to a settlement between parties?

    Said Tarasevich, “I regret I cannot respond to the remainder of your inquiries, either because I have not been authorized to do so, or because they inquire about matters which are confidential in nature.”

    Woodin declined comment. So did town office staff when approached June 27 as rumors began that Woodin was no longer with the town.

    Asked by phone Nov. 15 if Woodin was released without cause, Selectmen’s Chair Mike Tomko said: “Yes. I don't know that the word 'released' is correct, but … he was not released with cause … I don't want to appear difficult at all, I'm just not sure what information I can give you.”

    Tomko asked to review questions before giving a definitive answer. The questions were: Was Woodin released without cause? Was his review discussed in executive session and was termination or opting out of contract renewal discussed without his presence? Did the board take any votes to release Woodin? If not, how was that decision made? Did Woodin receive an exit interview? Who approached whom about Woodin's resignation? If he resigned, why was he given administrative leave instead of fulfilling his duties through July?

    On Nov. 16, Tomko replied by email stating that some of the inquiries are confidential personnel matters and cannot be answered. “That said, the Town made no finding or determination of ‛cause’ related to Mr. Woodin’s departure. The Board did meet in executive session regarding Mr. Woodin’s review and other related personnel matters; such executive sessions are permitted under Maine law … Mr. Woodin did not receive an ‛exit interview.’”

    Tomko said the board “took no votes to ‛release’ Woodin,” and his resignation “was the result of discussions with Mr. Woodin about his town employment, consistent with his existing employment contract.”