Former Exeter finance director requests additional severance

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Exeter’s former finance director Sheri Emerson asks City Council for five additional months of severance potentially costing the City $44,530.

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – The search for Exeter’s next finance director is already underway as interviews were held last week. But there is still some unfinished business between the City and their former finance director Sheri Emerson.

Emerson’s employment with the City was terminated on Aug. 28. City manager Randy Groom said that she was not let go as a punitive measure or as a result of a disciplinary action. And per a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in effect from fiscal year 2015 through 2018 and signed by all of the department heads at the time including Emerson, her employment was at-will.

The MOU states that, “If a Department Head is terminated from employment of the City during the term of this MOU for any reason…the Department Head shall be entitled to severance pay in an amount equal to three months salary, based upon the salary of the Department Head at the time of termination, as well as the continuation of medical benefits for the same three month period.”

During the Exeter City Council’s Sept. 26 meeting, Emerson addressed the Council during the public comment portion to request an additional five months of severance pay.

“On August 28th my at-will termination took me by surprise and has led me down a very different road that I wasn’t prepared for,” said Emerson during public comment. “I understand what my contract offers but I feel that with my 15 years of service and my great job evaluation performances I deserve to have an additional 5 months to my severance pay.”

When Emerson was terminated in August she earned $8,906 per month before the inclusion of medical benefits. Already she will receive $26,718 with her severance, an additional five months will push the total to $71,248, and that is a cost that the City can ill afford.

The City started the fiscal year on July 1 projected to incur a $345,495 deficit in the general fund which funds the finance department. According to the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget 35% of Emerson’s salary comes from the finance department. The remaining 65% is broken up over several other funds not included in the general fund.

According to Groom the City is still in the process of hiring a new finance director and when someone will assume that role is still up in the air.

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