New county manager to earn $145K

Perks for Kerby will include housing for one year, severance package

La Plata County’s new county manager will make more money than his predecessor.

On Tuesday, county commissioners unanimously approved an employment contract and housing agreement with Delta City Manager Joe Kerby.

“We have found a good manager in Mr. Joe Kerby, and we’re excited to get him on board,” said Commissioner Kellie Hotter.

Under the employment agreement, Kerby will earn $145,000 annually plus perks and benefits. That’s nearly $10,000 more in salary than Shawn Nau, the county’s former manager, was making when he abruptly quit last summer.

Like Nau, Kerby will be given use of the county-owned home at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. But the contract caps his stay there at one year, whereas Nau was allowed to stay with his family in the home for more than three years.

Hotter and other county officials said providing housing to new county managers while they get situated in a new community is common.

“It is difficult for someone new coming to our community,” she said.

County Attorney Sheryl Rogers said Kerby was receiving a similar benefit in Delta. And Commissioner Wally White pointed out that the real-estate market remains tricky amid a slow economic recovery, and allowing more time to become acquainted with the local market and its qualities is important for a newcomer.

“You don’t want to just jump in,” White said. “(This) gives him time to get to know the community and determine where he wants to live.”

The home at the fairgrounds is considered a taxable fringe benefit for Kerby, and he will pay income taxes on a $1,400 per month value of the benefit, officials said. He also will get $5,000 for relocation costs.

Included in the employment agreement are several provisions for severance pay in the event of his departure. He would get a six-month severance package unless he quits voluntarily, is fired for cause or is forced to resign. He would see an additional six months of severance pay in the event that the political tides turn in this election year and he is terminated without cause during the first six months of 2013.

Rogers said the latter clause of the severance agreement applies only to the upcoming election cycle, adding that severance provisions generally are typical in county manager contracts because of the “volatile political nature” of the job.

Kerby is expected to start the job on June 18 and will begin his new role with 80 hours of sick leave and 80 additional hours of paid vacation. Other county benefits will be extended and accrued at levels equivalent to those provided to a county employee with 10 years of service.

Kerby was selected early this month from a cast of four finalists, all of whom had ties in Colorado. He has been the Delta city manager since 2010, where he oversaw more than 100 employees and managed a $26 million annual budget, according to his application. He also has served as deputy county manager in Douglas County, Montrose County manager and city manager in Iola, Kan.

Commissioner Bobby Lieb called Kerby a “strong asset” with a good management background and a “consistent good reputation.”

The deal struck Tuesday closes out a months-long search that put county officials in a pending legal proceeding with The Durango Herald to determine if a state open-meetings law was violated in two January closed-door sessions when commissioners decided to pass over five people and start the manager search anew. That litigation is pending.

Commissioners concluded the meeting Tuesday with accolades for Assistant County Manager Joanne Spina, who was interim manager during the search process.

“She has been juggling two jobs for way too long,” Hotter said.

hscofield@durangoherald.com

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