For reasons that are not yet clear, former building department chief Mike Boyle will receive “substantial compensation” as part of a severance agreement approved Monday by village council members. The terms of the pact have not been made public, but during the council’s brief discussion of the matter Aug. 24, one commissioner indicated that Boyle is being paid to keep quiet.
“For this to be confidential it borders on – I’ll use the phrase hush money,” Commissioner Marty Tellalian said. “It’s totally improper and shouldn’t be happening.”
Commissioner Rory Hoskins voted with Tellalian to reject the agreement.
Earlier this month, Boyle resigned as director of the Department of Public Health and Safety, according to village officials. Mayor Anthony Calderone said he personally received the former employee’s resignation but was given no explanation as to why Boyle wanted to leave the job.
Commissioner Mike Curry, who oversees the department, has declined to offer any public comment on what may have prompted Boyle’s departure. Instead, Curry has insisted that the department will be improved. He has declined to say specifically how Boyle’s exit will benefit property owners. As head of the department, Boyle was in charge of issuing building permits, interpreting local zoning codes, property inspections and other property-related matters.
Despite pleas from Tellalian Monday, both Calderone and Curry again stayed silent on the motivations for paying severance to Boyle.
“I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of Forest Park,” Curry said several days before the council’s vote. “Always have and always will.”
Within the last 10 months, the building department twice found itself in an awkward position when elected officials were caught doing renovations to their homes without the necessary approvals. First, in late 2008, Commissioner Mark Hosty failed to obtain zoning relief from the village for work on his house. That project then moved forward without the appropriate building permits.
Weeks later, the department learned that Curry also ignored zoning and permitting regulations while renovating his home. Neither commissioner was fined for their respective infractions. The construction work at both homes was allowed to stand.
During the council’s Monday evening meeting, Tellalian indicated the severance agreement stems from a “professional disagreement between the employee and an elected official.” He railed against Curry for vindictively going after Boyle’s job, noting that only a few months ago Curry had sought to secure a salary increase for Boyle.
A second, unrelated severance agreement for a former records clerk in the police department received unanimous approval from the council.
Mike Durkin, an attorney for the village, said the details of those agreements would not be made public and are exempt from disclosure at least until Jan. 1 when new state laws take hold. Each contract contains a clause that the parties will hold the terms confidential.
He would not say whether the contracts were initially proposed by the municipality or the respective employees.
In both instances approved by the council, the former employees were considered at-will and did not have employment contracts with the village. Durkin said that anytime an employee is terminated or resigns, he advises municipalities to get it in writing that the individual agrees not to sue. Whether any sort of discrimination – for age, sex or some other reason – actually occurred is not the issue, said Durkin. The purpose is to protect the employer.
“We live in a very litigious society,” Durkin said.
As for whether any payout is attached to the severance agreements, Durkin declined to comment. The harm in releasing such a figure, he said, is it sets a precedent by which others may demand compensation when their employment ends.