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Schultz to receive generous severance

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

City Manager Tara Schultz will receive a severance package totaling nearly $214,000 in pay and benefits from the city of Claremont, according to a “separation agreement and mutual general release” document obtained by the COURIER.

The document states that Ms. Schultz was required to complete her regular duties until the “transition date” of October 22 and will be available by phone or video conferencing until the “resignation date” of October 31. Ms. Schultz had a seven day window to nullify the agreement, called the “revocation period,” however, that time has already passed.

The agreement was signed by Ms. Schultz and her attorney, R. Craig Scott, on October 9 and by Mayor Larry Schroeder and City Attorney Alisha Patterson on October 15.

The largest portion of Ms. Schultz’ compensation will be a lump sum severance payment of $105,500, equal to six months of her annual salary. That payment will be made no later than November 6. The city will also continue to pay Ms. Schultz her regular salary of $8,115.38 every two weeks through December 31, for a total of $36,519.21.

A payout of accrued leave time—including vacation, administrative leave and floating holidays totaling $33,567.68—will be paid on or before November 6, or five days following the end of the revocation period, whichever is later.

If Ms. Schultz elects to keep her city-provided medical insurance through COBRA, Claremont will pay the premium of $1,939.64 through the end of the year and $2,022.93 per month for all of 2021. This compensation is for medical insurance only, other benefits such as coverage for life, vision or accidental death and dismemberment will end on November 1, 2020.

Finally, Ms. Schultz is entitled to “reasonable and necessary” attorney fees incurred in negotiating and reviewing the separation agreement up to $10,000.

In total, Ms. Schultz’ severance comes to $213,741.33, assuming she takes advantage of the 14 months of medical insurance premiums and her attorney fees equal $10,000.

The COURIER sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the city of Claremont on October 12 seeking documents including emails, letters and text messages related to the end of Tara Schultz’ employment dating back to September 24. In response City Clerk Shelley Desautels sent 31 documents, some of which were repetitive, while others were public information such as news releases.

Also requested were copies of correspondence, emails and text messages from city staff and members of the city council related to the appointment of an interim city manager and costs associated with that appointment.

As determined by Ms. Patterson and Ms. Desautels, certain information was withheld or redacted from documents in accordance with government code sections that protect information such as personnel records and attorney-client communications.

“The withholding and or redaction of documents protects the confidentiality of attorney-client communications, and attorney work product. The public interest served by not disclosing this information clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure,” Ms. Desautels wrote in her email to the COURIER.

After a complete review that included the COURIER attorney, the overall document reads like a fairly standard separation agreement. However, Ms. Schultz severance did seem high for someone employed by Claremont for just three years. In particular, paying medical insurance for 14 months appears generous, but one does have to take into account the impact of the pandemic.

The question that has yet to be answered, and perhaps will never be known, is why Ms. Schultz is leaving the city, particularly mere days before an important election and in the middle of a pandemic. As reported last week, city officials would only say that it is a personnel matter, and, according to Mr. Schroeder, “Out of a respect for privacy, I can’t say anything more at this time.”

“I want you to know that it has been an honor and a privilege to have known you and to have worked with you all. You are amazing and I will miss your energy and enthusiasm. I have had such a great time in Claremont and I know that your future is going to be bright,” Ms. Schultz said in an email to all staff of the city of Claremont one day before her departure was made public.

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