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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley city manager’s severance three times what his contract stipulated

Those who left Spokane Valley City Hall Tuesday night with a bit of sticker shock and lots of questions about the $411,000 severance package granted dismissed city manager Mike Jackson may never get answers.

Jackson’s contract guaranteed him a minimum severance of six months salary at his current pay rate as well as compensation for all accrued leave and six months of health, life and disability insurance.

Documents provided by the city show Jackson’s monthly salary at nearly $20,000, or $120,000 for six months. Yet Jackson’s severance pay was more than three times that at $411,115.66.

That amount breaks down to six months salary plus benefits and accrued leave, plus another six months salary and benefits, and yet another six months salary without benefits, said Jackson’s attorney Milt Rowland.

Neither Spokane Valley officials nor Rowland would comment on Jackson’s severance deal, which also came with an agreement not to disparage the city or its elected officials.

Former Mayor Tom Towey negotiated Jackson’s contract in January 2010, after accepting the resignation of his predecessor Dave Mercier.

Mercier was paid 13 months salary; he made $175,362 per year.

Like Jackson’s dismissal, a motion to approve Mercier’s dismissal was added to the City Council agenda at the beginning of the meeting where he was let go.

But Towey said what happened then is different from Jackson’s ouster, in that Mercier “offered to resign.”

Said Towey:“People think we just got up and fired Mercier. We didn’t.”

Towey was elected with the so-called Positive Change slate of candidates, which held the majority on the council.

Dean Grafos was also one of the Positive Change candidates; he quit the council last week saying he was being excluded from council decisions. Fellow council member Chuck Hafner resigned Monday for the same stated reason.

Towey said the Positive Change group was clear during campaigning that it would take a close look at a sweeping redevelopment plan for the Sprague-Appleway couplet, as well as whether Mercier was the right person for the city manager job.

Once Positive Change had the majority, the redevelopment plan was jettisoned and Mercier, who commuted to his job from Battle Creek, Washington, was let go.

“I can’t say enough good things about Mercier,” Towey said. “The city still uses some of his policies and procedures.”

Former mayor Grafos was also involved in selecting Jackson and negotiating his contract. He said the contract was worded very carefully to be good for the city, and still be attractive to Jackson.

Grafos said he doesn’t know why Jackson’s severance pay exceeded what was called for in his contract.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s enough money because they destroyed his career,” Grafos said. “Because of how they treated him I feel like this is nowhere near enough.”