By Jane Smith

    Community Redevelopment Agency board members gave their former executive director 12 weeks of severance pay and benefits totaling $34,741.
    They did so after learning in October that the terms of Vivian Brooks’ contract were not clear, said agency attorney Tara Duhy.
    Duhy said the sections of the previous executive director’s contract were contradictory. In one part, the contract states that it starts on the date the board approved it, which was Sept. 8, 2015. If that is the correct interpretation, then the contract would have renewed automatically on Sept. 8, 2016 — five days before the board voted not to renew her contract.
    Without a 30-day notice, Brooks could have sought 20 weeks of severance pay.
    But the board members, all city commissioners, understood the contract as saying it started on Oct. 1, 2015, and would end on Sept. 30, 2016. Their decision to end the contract on Sept. 13 was within the time frame not requiring a severance package.
    Initially, CRA board member Joe Casello complained about learning of the contradictory language after the vote. He agreed to give Brooks a week for every year she was at the CRA.
    Three members of the public spoke. David Katz, who chairs the city’s Planning and Development Board, said as a city taxpayer, that 12 weeks of pay and benefits is “a bit much.”
    Dr. James DeVoursney, a member of the CRA’s advisory board, said three months of pay with benefits was appropriate for someone “who put so much time and effort into the city.” It also shows potential candidates where the city’s heart is.
    Resident Brian Fitzpatrick said he agreed with the severance package.
    The board members voted 3-2 in favor of the package. Mayor Steven Grant and Commissioner Justin Katz voted no. Grant had proposed a two-week severance to extend the former executive director’s pay into mid-October.
    In other business, the CRA board hired assistant director Michael Simon as CRA interim executive director during the search for a new one. Simon, who was making $105,689, will get a $125,000 salary, retroactive to Oct. 1. He will receive a $250 monthly car allowance.
    Simon had been assistant director for about three years and worked for the agency about 10 years.
    The board plans to hire a firm to find a new executive director or management firm to run the CRA. Simon was directed to bring a list of firms to the November CRA meeting for the board’s review. The search firm was estimated to cost about $20,000.

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