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A costly lesson

September 25, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

My, my, how time does fly - especially when there's plenty of cash to grease the wheels for takeoff.

And take off is exactly what Dr. James Browder has done, just weeks after an unfavorable primary and less than two years after he assured the school board that he intended to stay with the district "eight to 10 more years" as a fawning majority gilded his contract with a $335,000-plus parachute that allowed him to bail at his pleasure with pockets full of cash.

Taxpayer cash, specifically two years salary to be paid even if he quit - which is what he did to take another job paying nearly as much with Edison State College.

This severance provision was so egregious when approved in December of 2008 that the state legislature actually set a cap in its wake. School districts are now, by law, prohibited from handing out more than one year of compensation for termination, buy-out, or any other type of settlement, an interesting - and unfortunate - legacy for the existing board, indeed.

We suggest a couple of things as property owners paying for the pricey farewell should get something for their money ill-spent.

One, we agree that many - indeed, most - of our public workforce is competent and dedicated. This includes Dr. Browder, who served the district long and well.

Employees are, however, compensated for this. Within the top few tiers, they are compensated very well. The argument that any public sector employee is due additional entitlements such as pension payments plus a salary via programs like the Deferred Retirement Option Program; allowed pension padding via unlimited overtime and add-ons prior to retirement to boost base compensation; and deals like that handed to Dr. Browder should never make it to the table.

Never.

If such policies or practices are proposed they should be quashed with minimal discussion because they always come back to bite not only those signing the checks - i.e. those school board incumbents ousted in the primary and those on the chopping block next - but those forced to ante up the funds. That's the rest of us.

School board members should make careful note of this when negotiating the contract for the new superintendent. Hire based on experience and expertise, plan to compensate accordingly and well, and yes, include a severance package for without-cause termination - ours is a political world. Four to six months would be ample and standard for the position.

Two, that other governmental entities also take note as this problem is not limited to the school district nor is it unique to incumbents.

Voters, who are counting the few pennies they have left, are scrutinizing public expenditures like never before. They are appropriately comparing those costs against the real world- the private sector.

Bonuses, perks and contract goodies like overly generous car allowances, cash-in-lieu of benefits and big buyouts upon separation are high on the watch list - as they should be.

Stop the giveaways. They benefit few and pad payroll costs with little to no return to the public paying for them.

- Breeze editorial

 
 
 

 

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