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Parting gets pricey for Forsyth County

Manager next in line for big payout

POSTED: September 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

At its regularly called meeting Thursday, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to fire Forsyth County Manager Rhonda Poston-O’Connor.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse and Commissioner Jim Harrel cast the dissenting votes.

The commission met last week to fire her, but postponed its decision until Thursday.

The delay reportedly allowed time to bring Assistant County Manager Doug Derrer and other staff up to speed on matters. Derrer will serve as interim county manager until a replacement is found.

Poston-O’Connor’s departure is the latest in a series of personnel moves that dates back more than four years.

Forsyth County government has paid about $347,000 since 2004 to key administrators who resigned or were fired, a check of county records shows.

An analysis of the county manager position, as well as aides to commissioners, indicates that the county not only compensates its officials well, it also pays a steep price to send them packing.

Poston-O’Connor will walk away from the top post with nearly $157,000, which would bring the total to $504,000.

Pat Carson, county director of personnel services, said that the $347,000 figure for former officials includes severance as well as personal and compensatory time and 401K.

"Specific to the (Poston-O’Connor’s) contract, it will be $156,799.89," Carson said.

Poston-O’Connor was promoted to the post, which draws an annual salary of $130,000, in September 2007 after serving as interim county manager for about 17 months.

Former county administrator Stevie Mills resigned in May 2004 after working for the county about 21 years. He did not publicly state why he left the post.

Carson said Mills received $51,606.82, which included severance.

Upon his resignation, the commission appointed Jeff Quesenberry, who was serving at the time as chief financial officer, to the post on an interim basis.

In November 2004, the county hired David Armstrong as county manager and Quesenberry resumed his duties as chief financial officer.

But Armstrong was fired in March 2005, reportedly due to conflicts with the commission. He was paid severance plus compensatory time, for a total of about $80,300.

About that same time, Dane Perry, who was hired in 2001 as assistant county administrator, left with about $51,000.

Perry was fired in 2005 after being suspended the year before amid allegations of inappropriate conduct and soliciting gifts.

Quesenberry was named county manager in April 2005 and served in the post and as the county’s interim chief financial officer until he resigned in April 2006.

Carson explained that Quesenbery did not receive a severance package because he was not fired. According to his contract, she said, "Part of the agreement is that the resignation would not have provided for that."

Quesenberry did, however, receive $34,612.55 in compensatory time.

In addition, former commissioner aides Carol Haag, Jeanne Marie Cowdry and Shawn Scott were paid about $129,000 in 2007.

Haag, who has since returned as assistant to the county manager, resigned from her former post before her contract ended and was paid $10,775.17 for personal and compensatory time.

Cowdry finished her contract and received a severance plus compensatory time in the amount of $59,044.26, Carson said.

Scott, who turned down an offer for another job with the county, was paid $59,360.33 in severance and compensatory time.

Poston-O’Connor stepped in as interim county manager when Quesenberry left and served until she was named county manager last year.

Bill Thomas was named the county’s chief financial officer shortly after Poston-O’Connor’s promotion in 2007.

Commissioner Brian Tam, who voted against Poston-O’Connor’s promotion last year, has said her termination would be the result of what he called a pattern of "withholding information."

Commissioner Linda Ledbetter has said the possible dismissal stems from the recent discovery that $5 million may have been transferred from reserves without the commission’s authorization.

The shift would have helped cover a $6.9 million shortfall in the county’s budget.



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