Council agrees on McDuffie’s severance package

Published 6:12 pm Friday, April 29, 2022

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AHOSKIE – Kerry McDuffie, Ahoskie’s former Town Manager, will be paid a shade over $4,000 every two weeks during the next six months as part of a severance package in his contract with the town.

That amount was approved here Wednesday morning when members of the Ahoskie Town Council reconvened a special called meeting from Friday, April 22 where they fired McDuffie in a unanimous vote.

McDuffie had served as Town Manager since May 9, 2017. There was no reason given at the April 22 meeting for why the Council opted to terminate McDuffie’s contract. The only reference was that McDuffie was fired “without cause.”

Because of that reference, McDuffie’s contract called for severance pay equivalent to six months of compensation based upon his current salary at the time of the termination. In addition, the Town agrees to continue to provide employee’s health insurance and other benefits during such six-month period.

According to the Town of Ahoskie, McDuffie’s annual salary was 106,367.56 at the time of termination. Town employees are paid every two weeks, meaning the amount of salary severance due to McDuffie over each of the next 14 pay periods (covering six months) is $4,091.06.

Cecilia Jones, who serves as legal counsel for the Town of Ahoskie, told the Council at Wednesday’s meeting that the contract contains “a bit of ambiguity regarding exactly how the severance is paid. It can be interpreted as being paid in a lump sum or being paid at the same time normal payroll is processed,” she said.

Jones suggested that to avoid the town having to “write out one big check, continue to pay the former Town Manager for a period of six months, April 22 to October 22. That would prevent moving a large sum of money from one line item to another,” Jones noted.

On a motion from Councilman Charles Freeman and a second from Councilman Charles Reynolds, the Council approved the suggestion made by Jones.

It was also noted that McDuffie is entitled to 225 hours of vacation time. Jones advised the Council that she will research how that needs to be handled and will inform them of her findings at an upcoming meeting.

In the meantime, the Council will begin their process of selecting an interim manager as well advertising for a new one. That latter process will include the manager’s job description and the low end/high end of the new manager’s starting salary (based on the applicant’s qualifications and job experience).

“I think it would be a good thing between now and our next meeting for everybody to think about what their expectations are for our new manager,” said Councilman Matt Bradley. “Think about where we want to go from where we are now. We can use those expectations as part of our interview process.”

There was a brief discussion about requiring the new manager to live inside the town’s corporate limits. The Council agreed to “encourage” the new manager to live in town, but would allow he or she to reside within Hertford County.

Upon reviewing all applications, the Council will narrow that list to two or three finalists and conduct face-to-face interviews with those individuals.

“We need to be open minded and thoughtful in this process of choosing a new town manager,” stated Councilwoman Jamie Burns. “We want to make sure we find the right person to serve our citizens.”

Jones suggested that the Town Manager’s contract should not last perpetually.

“It needs to be reviewed and renewed on an annual basis,” Jones noted. “That way, if things aren’t working out, just like any at-will employee, there’s an option and a place to say this is a good ending for this relationship and the employee and employer can go in a different direction.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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