Dare, Council Reach Deal On Severance Plan

OCEAN CITY — Three months after he submitted his resignation with stipulations, former City Manager Dennis Dare and the Ocean City Mayor and Council have reached a settlement on his severance package.

During closed session meetings at City Hall in early September, the council voted 4-3 to ask Dare for his resignation from the post he held since 1990. Council President Jim Hall and council members Brent Ashley, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas voted to make the change, while Council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin opposed.

At a closed session gathering of the council on Sept. 8 at City Hall, Jim Hall reportedly opened the meeting reporting it was a time to make a change with the city manager’s position and that Dare was going to be asked to resign. If he did not resign, he was going to be terminated. Jim Hall said at the time the move was needed to change the direction of the town.

“This was a tough decision, one made by the majority of the council, to change the management direction of the town,” Jim Hall said on Sept. 9. “Dennis has done a wonderful, wonderful job for us, but we wanted to take the town in a different direction.”

Dare did submit his resignation on Sept. 9, but the terms of the separation were not known until Tuesday when the resignation and severance agreement was made official with a 5-2 council vote (Council members Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas opposed).

The four-page document is complex and details exactly what Dare is to receive from the city for his employment of 29 years — 21 of which as city manager and eight as city engineer. Dare would have been eligible for full retirement benefits next October, or his 30-year anniversary with the city. That fact further complicated the exit plan for Dare, considering the scope of the town’s pension system.

Since his resignation, Dare has been receiving his full pay rate ($173,404 per year) and employee benefits, and he will continue on that track until March 31, 2012 when he will essentially retire.

Starting April 1, 2012, the city will, according to the agreement, “pay to Dare in a paid leave status based on Joint and Survivor pension benefit as of thirty years of service to Ocean City as an employee in the amount of $6,665.83 monthly through October 31, 2012.” Subtracted reportedly from that amount will be costs for the health insurance coverage for Dare and his wife.

Combining his annual salary’s weekly rate, from Sept. 9, 2011 to March 31, 2012 with the adjusted salary from April 1, 2012-Oct. 31, 2012, the city will be paying Dare about $133,000 for not working, excluding vacation, holiday and personal leave pay owed to him and other benefit costs.

Additionally, the agreement stipulates Ocean City will pay into the general employees pension fund the regular employee contribution from April 1, 2012 through Oct. 31, 2012, which amounts to $4,765 during that time period.

Ocean City will also pay into Dare’s ICMA Deferred Compensation account $10,000 for 2011 and $2,500 for the first quarter of 2012. Additionally, the town will fund Dare’s life insurance premium at approximately $60 per month.

Dare’s accounting and legal fees will also be covered by the city upon receipt of itemized billings but it’s capped at an amount not included in the agreement inked this week.

Dare said Wednesday he was grateful to the council “for making me whole” and feels the finalized accord is much less costly to the city than what was initially proposed.

“I commend the five council members who voted to approve the agreement for fulfilling their promise,” Dare said. “In my opinion, it was a very fair settlement, and I’m thankful they did what they said they were going to do and not penalizing me for the whole pension account.”

Other items included in the agreement between Dare and the city are Dare gets to keep his city cell phone number; he receives lifetime free play at the city’s Eagle’s Landing Golf Course; Dare will receive a favorable letter of recommendation; Dare releases the city’s from further liability; among other items.

Along with Pillas, Ashley opposed the resignation and severance agreement. He declined to say what it was about the agreement he opposed as a result of the matter being handled in closed session.

“I’m happy Dennis is happy. The vote was in closed session so I can’t comment on the specifics. Anything in closed session I can’t comment on,” Ashley said. “Anything that moves us forward and brings the matter to a conclusion is a good thing. I will say anything that we all didn’t agree on was very minor.”

The city is currently in the midst of a national search to fill the vacant city manager post. Dare’s duties are currently being filled by Interim City Manager/Mayor Rick Meehan. In October, the city opted to seek an experienced firm to seek candidates through a national search, which is expected to cost anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 and will take at least four to five months, Human Resources Director Wayne Evans said in mid-October.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.