Thursday, January 23, 2003

Talks on severance deal OK, Krings says

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County Administrator David Krings said Wednesday he would be willing to reopen negotiations on his new contract in light of the squawk that's been raised over the package he gets if he's ever fired.

"If the board wants to talk about it, I'm willing to talk about it," Krings said.

His new contract, approved 3-0 by commissioners before Tom Neyer left office, gives him at least 29 months' pay and 23 months' health benefits if he is forced to resign, even if he is at fault. The contract also allows him to collect the severance if just one commissioner suggests he resign or the commissioners reduce his benefits.

That doesn't mean the contract can't be changed, Krings said - it just means the commissioners can't change it without his support.

The provisions of Hamilton County Administrator David Krings' contract:

$179,636 annual base pay.

Free parking.

$7,644 a year in pay for automobile.

$2,676 a year in pay for general expenses.

Right to cash in up to 10 days of unused vacation each year.

All contributions to Krings' retirement fund through the Public Employees Retirement System will be paid by county.

County will pay 15 percent of Krings' salary into a second retirement fund administered by the International City/County Management Association.

County will pay for Krings to attend three association meetings a year as well as other professional memberships and subscriptions.

Krings must be available to work at all times.

The commissioners will give Krings written goals annually and review his performance twice a year.

The commissioners will give Krings at least three months' notice before firing him.

If Krings is fired when he is still willing to perform his duties, he will get a lump-sum severance payment of 1 years' salary and retirement benefits plus an additional month for each year on the job. He also will get one year of health coverage, plus an additional month for each year on the job.

Krings will be credited with 105 hours of vacation time when he leaves the county.

If the commissioners reduce his benefits or any commissioner suggests he resign, he may consider himself fired and collect his severance.

His comments came after Wednesday's commissioners meeting, in which new Commissioner Phil Heimlich failed to get a second from Commissioner John Dowlin on a motion to seek the prosecutor's opinion on the contract. Heimlich just learned of the contract this week, and raised two legal questions Wednesday:

Whether one board of commissioners can bind future boards to a contract.

Whether the comments of one commissioner can be treated as a decision of the board - therefore limiting individual commissioners' First Amendment right of free expression.

"I have less rights than any citizen who might walk in the door and express his opinion," Heimlich said.

In departure from common practice, the prosecutor's office did not review Krings' contract before it was approved. Prosecutor Mike Allen said it's up to the commissioners to ask his office to do so.

The commissioners - Republicans Tom Neyer and Dowlin and Democrat Todd Portune - passed the contract Dec. 30 - the last meeting before Heimlich took Neyer's place. Heimlich also has raised questions about almost $5 million in spending added to the budget before its passage that same day. Appropriations for social programs, emergency warning sirens, economic development and other areas were included in the 2003 budget on a 2-1 vote, with Dowlin opposed.

All three, however, voted for Krings' contract, which Krings said he and his lawyer wrote. "They (commissioners) told me what they wanted in it," he said.

Heimlich and county residents don't seem to blame Krings for getting the contract as much as they blame the commissioners for approving it.

"Giving Krings this lucrative contract just because he is doing a good job is irresponsible on their part," Hyde Park resident Kerin Hayes said. "Give him a nice holiday ham. ... It's ridiculous to expect taxpayers and voters to economize when commissioners spend our money frivolously."

Heimlich, too, repeated Wednesday his objections "have nothing to do with Dave Krings or his performance." He indicated he will renew his request for a prosecutor's opinion upon the return of Portune, who has been out recovering from surgery.


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