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School District 2 trustees have approved $80,000 in severance payments to Dick Reich, former chief financial officer, and to former Superintendent James Kimmet.

Reich left his post in May, and Kimmet agreed to resign last August.

Trustees also requested a legal opinion about a $33,000 payment made to Reich.

The board met this week to discuss severance packages for Reich and Kimmet, as well as the previous $33,000 payment to Reich for excess vacation days.

In regard to Kimmet, the $43,408 severance payment is the final money owed by the district. Kimmet was the district's top administrator for six years. Last August, the board said it felt the need for a change in leadership and asked Kimmet — just days before school started — to step down as superintendent.

Because Kimmet's contract didn't expire until June 30, 2001, he agreed to serve as a consultant to the district, and, in turn, he continued to collect his $98,000 salary.

The severance payment agreed to by trustees this week is a combination of vacation pay, sick leave and service credit owed to Kimmet for the final year of his contract. He did not receive an additional month of retirement that he had requested.

The only question that arose about the payment to Kimmet focused on whether he should be paid the $5,676 service credit he earned for his six years with the district. Typically, administrators earn $100 for each year of satisfactory performance.

A policy recently adopted by trustees on administrator benefits and retroactive to July 1, 2000, states that no service-credit benefits shall be applied toward retirement benefits for any employee terminating employment with less than 10 years or more than 35 years of service.

Trustees asked Larry Martin, attorney for the district, to look into how that policy will affect Kimmet's service credit.

Trustees voted to pay Reich, who worked for the district for 22 years, a severance payment calculated at $36,856. Reich resigned in May shortly after district officials learned of a $2.5-million loss of money in the high school district's reserve fund.

A clerical error in an annual budget report electronically transmitted by Reich to the Office of Public Instruction caused the high school district's $2.5-million general fund reserve to be reappropriated to the state. Though the mistake occurred last September, it wasn't discovered until this spring.

The trustees only approved Reich's severance package after they voted to look into a $33,000 payment Reich received last summer for excess vacation days. Trustees were angered that the payment had been made without their knowledge.

Trustees voted 6-1 to ask Martin to research both whether the way the payment was made violated board policy and whether the way the vacation days were accrued was in violation of state law. Trustees also directed Martin to study whether the $33,000 can be recouped.Susan Olp can be reached at 657-1281 or at solp@billingsgazette.com.

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