Updated to clarify that the mayor has not yet decided who will replace Scott James as finance director, and to include the value of health benefits as part of settlement.
Under the employment separation agreement approved by the Edmonds City Council last week, City of Edmonds Finance Director Scott James will receive six months of severance pay totaling $82,119.36, plus more than $12,000 to cover the value of health benefits for that time period, the City of Edmonds confirmed Tuesday.
“His total settlement included a portion that was based on a calculation of the value of COBRA benefits for six months, which was $12,696, City Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson said.
My Edmonds News on May 22 reported that James — the city’s finance director for seven years — had left the city.
The agreement, obtained last week through a public records request, notes that James’ employment is terminated, effective June 1, and that — according to James’ employment agreement –the mayor is allowed to remove him, as an “at-will” employee, “with or without cause.”
James was hired by former Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling in March 2014. He was fired by new Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who took office in January. No explanation has been offered for James’ departure.
City of Edmonds spokesperson Jamie Holter said the mayor appreciates James’ service “and wishes him the best of luck.” The mayor also “has every confidence” that Assistant Finance Director Dave Turley will “hit the ground running” as acting finance director.
According to Holter, whomever Nelson choses as permanent finance director will have to be confirmed by the city council.
City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, a former bank regulator who has a particular interest in city finances, said she couldn’t comment on James’ departure, on the advice of the city attorney.
Under the terms of the separation agreement, James agreed to keep the terms of the agreement confidential and also to not discuss it with the news media. in addition, James agreed not “to make disparaging statements about the city relating to this agreement or its provisions.”
Also of interest is Section 24 of the agreement, which was a topic of discussion the resulted in a vote — and revote — during the May 26 council meeting. That section requires that James not seek reemployment with the City of Edmonds in the future. During the May 26 meeting, Buckshnis proposed removing Section 24 from the agreement. During the initial vote, four councilmembers voted in favor — Buckshnis, Vivian Olson, Kristiana Johnson and Susan Paine. But after a few minutes of discussion on another matter, Paine indicated she has mistakenly cast a “yes” vote for removing Section 24.
“I mis-voted. I meant to say no,” Paine said. “I did misspeak. That would be my error.”
Paine then moved to have Section 24 remain as part of the agreement, and that was approved 4-3, with Councilmembers Paine, Laura Johnson, Luke Distelhorst and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas voting yes and Buckshnis, Olson and Kristiana Johnson voting no. After that, the council voted 4-3 to approve the separation agreement, also with no votes from Buckshnis, Olson and Kristiana Johnson.
Prior to coming to Edmonds, James spent seven years as finance director for the City of Mukilteo. He had also worked for the City of Edmonds earlier in his career, serving as a staff accountant from 1998 to 2005.
— By Teresa Wippel