Public Safety Director Kal Farr is leaving his job with severance pay even though he resigned because of another job offer.
City Manager Ron Olson said a 1988 revision of the city's policy manual gives him the latitude to offer as much as three months of severance pay to department heads who resign from their posts with the city.Farr said Wednesday he told Olson some time ago he would be leaving his post as the head of the city's combined police and fire departments, but he didn't know exactly when. The city manager encouraged Farr to submit his resignation as soon as possible, probably because of a concern about the chief's having divided loyalties after deciding to leave the city, Farr said.
"I didn't want to have a burned-out chief sitting there as a lame duck," Olson said Wednesday. Farr's willingness to act as a consultant to the city - helping select and train a new chief, if asked - was part of the severance deal struck with Farr for his expedited resignation, Olson said, adding that the chief did not decide to change jobs because of any pressure from the city manager.
Farr has led the city's combined fire and police department for 71/2 years and submitted his resignation Dec. 5, saying he would vacate his post Jan. 1.
The arrangement between Olson and the chief was a puzzlement to several members of the City Council Tuesday. The issue was not discussed because Olson believed it should only be discussed in a closed meeting.
Mayor Kristin Lambert said the council has chosen to separate staff issues from political issues by having Olson make staff decisions. The issue of severance pay for Farr didn't need to be discussed by the council, she said.
"We made an agreement with Ron a long time ago that he would take care of those kinds of things," the mayor said. "I didn't think it should come up at a council meeting, and I don't care what the arrangements are."
Councilman Dave Plouzek said Tuesday night after the meeting that Farr "upset the council" during a public budget meeting last summer by saying the city was putting lives in jeopardy by not funding salaries for additional officers. "Certain members of the council were furious over the statement."
One budget option considered by the council would have eliminated the city's medical-response firefighters, something Farr and other police and fire officers objected to at the meetings. "I didn't make them happy and I'm aware of that," Farr said.