Lee County closes contracts for its manager, attorney

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:
Lee County admin building. (Credit: WINK News)
Credit: WINK News

Lee County’s leaders like the way things are going at the top, so on Tuesday, it approved new contracts for its manager and attorney. These deals come with a cash kicker, even if the county decides to fire one or both of them.

Lee County commissioners said it has the two men they need, County Manager Roger Desjarlais and County Attorney Richard Wesch, to run its day to day operations.

On Tuesday, the county finalized new contracts for both.

The two high-profile employees will be getting a 6% merit-based raise. The county manager and attorney each make roughly $240,000 per year and would be entitled to a maximum of 20 weeks severance pay, plus unused sick or vacation time.

These new deals include a kicker of sorts, for the first time, which provides for generous severance packages that totaled nearly $200,000.

Brian Hamman, Lee County commission chairman, said he usually is against severance pay.

“Typically when you’re in that situation, you’re letting the employee go because you weren’t happy with their performance,” Hamman said. “However, I didn’t want to vote against the entire contract.”

In 2013 Desjarlais specifically said he didn’t want a severance clause in his contract saying people are tired of public officials taking the money they didn’t earn. In a statement on Tuesday, Desjarlais explained his change in position.

“In 2013 in Southwest Florida, there were several public officials who had received unusually large severance payments,” he said. “That statement was provided in that context. Since that time, the Florida legislature has limited severance pay to a fraction of what it once was.”

“They’ve certainly earned seniority and the ability to negotiate for some of these benefits,” Hamman said.

The commissioners unanimously approved the new contracts, which is not surprising. In their evaluation of the two men, it said they “exceeded their expectations.”

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