Grand County mulls holding severance pay for felony investigations
The Grand County Board of Commissioners has discussed changing county policy to suspend or revoke severance pay for employees that resign or are terminated due to a criminal investigation that could result in a felony related to their employment.
The board heard recommendations from the county personnel committee that it add the provision to county policy at its June 9 meeting.
The issue stems from a scandal in the Grand County Building Department that saw more than $500,000 in funds disappear.
Former employee Brigid Irish, who is accused of misappropriating the money, was terminated from her post with the county.
Former department head Scott Penson resigned.
Irish has been charged with 915 counts of embezzlement, 12 counts of forgery and one count of attempting to influence a public official.
Both received severance pay.
During the meeting, commissioners agreed on suspending severance pay for employees who resign or are terminated due to a criminal investigation or charges that could result in a felony related to their employment.
If an employee is convicted or pleads guilty to a felony in relation to their employment, the county would revoke the employee’s severance pay.
Commissioners also discussed whether the policy should apply to misdemeanors.
“To me it should be for any crime,” said County Treasurer Christina Whitmer. “Any crime against the county in their employment. Their benefits should be suspended.”
County Attorney Anthony “Jack” DiCola disagreed.
“If you used your phone to make a personal phone call, that’s technically a crime,” DiCola said. “Should you lose 30 years of severance because you used your phone to make a personal phone call because technically that would be theft in the county?”
Commissioner James Newberry added that restricting the policy to felonies could protect employees from being unfairly targeted by a supervisor.
County policies currently allow the termination of employees who commit a crime.
The policy change will now come back to the board for final consideration.
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