Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Former administrator getting unemployment benefits from city

Sharon Hammer receiving nearly $350 a week

Express Staff Writer

    The city of Sun Valley will pay at least $7,546 in unemployment insurance benefits for former City Administrator Sharon Hammer in addition to the six months severance pay awarded her upon her termination in January.
    According to an accounts-payable statement for the last quarter of fiscal 2012—posted for public review and later approved by the City Council—the city paid $3,430 to Hammer for July through September. City Treasurer and Financial Manager Angela Walls said Hammer is collecting $343 per week through the Idaho Department of Labor, which then bills the city for the payments. Walls said the city anticipates paying Hammer’s benefits at least through December.
    Under Idaho law, a city, unlike a business, has the option of reimbursing the department per claim for unemployment insurance benefits rather than paying a quarterly tax. Walls said Sun Valley pays its benefits per claim.
    “Very rarely do employees file a claim against the city,” she said. “That’s why we do it that way.”
    The Idaho Department of Labor’s website states that unemployment insurance provides financial assistance to workers “unemployed through no fault of their own.” Former Executive Assistant to the Mayor Virginia Egger said Hammer had applied with the department for unemployment benefits and the department found her eligible since she had been “terminated without stated cause.”
    “It was a very standard process,” Egger said.
    Egger left her job with the city on Nov. 9 to work as town manager of Avon, Colo.
    At a special City Council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Mayor DeWayne Briscoe said he could not provide additional details about the unemployment payments being paid to Hammer because it is a personnel matter. Hammer’s contract with Sun Valley was terminated without stated cause on Jan. 19 by the City Council upon the recommendation of Briscoe, who had just taken office.
    Upon her termination, Hammer was paid six months base salary severance in the amount of $60,412, plus $20,266 for vacation, city records indicate. Shortly before her termination, Hammer was placed on paid administrative leave by then Mayor Wayne Willich from Nov. 18 through Dec. 27 of last year and again by Briscoe from Jan. 5-19 of this year. Based on Hammer’s fiscal 2012 salary of $120,824, the city paid her $28,452 for paid administrative leave in fiscal 2012, according to figures supplied to the Idaho Mountain Express by Egger.
    That brings the total paid by the city to Hammer for two quarters of unemployment insurance benefits, severance pay and paid administrative leave to about $116,000.
    The figure does not include $111,478 in legal fees paid by Sun Valley to defend itself against pending lawsuits filed against the city by Hammer.

Brennan Rego:

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