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0806, 01 Apr 20

Looking at The Current Washington County Administrator Contract

Here is a guest post from former Washington County Sheriff, Dale Schmidt. Here is a copy County Administrator Current Contract

As the candidates for Washington County Executive, Mr. Gitter and Mr. Schoemann, campaign using information they want you to know, voters should always seek out their own information about the candidates.  As Schoemann has been employed by county government since 2014 it may be worth reviewing the positions he has held and his current employment contract.

When he was first hired, the position was known as County Manager.   That position was part of the County pay chart at that time and probably had the same benefits as other full time employees.

By June of 2014 though, the County Board changed the position to County Administrator, still on the pay plan.  Starting in June of 2015 the Executive Committee held closed session meetings under the heading “County Administrator Contract” every month, (for 7 months) which culminated in the Board approving an employment contract for Schoemann at its December 8th meeting.

That contract was a public document made available as part of the Board’s packet of information. The contract was for two years, renewable in one year increments.  Schoemann negotiated and the Board approved wages of $126,555 in 2016, and $132,883 in 2017.  The total wages and benefits were $166,988 in 2016 and $174,223 in 2017.  (At that meeting, the Board also approved a 1% cost of living raise for all non-represented employees.  It’s unknown if 1% was then added onto Schoemann’s negotiated wages).  Schoemann also was to accrue Paid-Time-Off at the rate of a 9 year employee and the contract included performance evaluations and a retention/incentive clause.

In September of 2017, that contract was amended by the Executive Committee in a closed session meeting lasting 16 minutes.  The contract item was on the public agenda as closed session, but the proposed contract was not publicly available.  To the best of my knowledge, the contract has not been published publicly to this day.  It also was never approved by the whole County Board as the Administrator is now only required to answer to the Executive Committee.  The members who approved this contract were Supervisors Kriefall, Michalak McCune, Bulawa, Deiss, Bassill, and past Chairman Gundrum.  The contract has been released to the public through a formal record request.  It should be noted that since the County Board changed its form of government to Executive, this contract is done the day the new Executive term begins in April.

Significant bullet points of the current contract.  (Words in italics are copied from the contract):

-This is a five year contract covering years 2018 through 2022.

Administrator’s gross salary shall be set as follows: For calendar year 2018: $138,198; For calendar year 2019: $143,726; For calendar year 2020: $149,475; For calendar year 2021: $153,960; For calendar year 2022: $158,578.

Retention Incentive.  Administrator shall receive an incentive (“incentive”) accrual and payment in accordance with the following procedures and policies:  1. Accrual of Retention Incentive, Beginning in 2018 for each year Administrator is employed by County from January 1 to December 31 under this Agreement, he shall accrue a retention incentive payment, The incentive accrual amount shall be as set forth in Article IV,B.2.  2. Payment.  In January of 2018 Administrator shall receive a retention incentive payment in the amount of $10,000, On January 1 each year thereafter, Administrator shall receive a retention incentive payment in the amount accrued three (3) years prior which shall be five percent (5%) of the then gross salary budgeted and approved by the County Board.  Said payment shall be deemed income and subject to applicable withholdings in accordance with the County’s standard payroll practices, The retention incentive payment shall be made as directed by Administrator in one lump sum or in 26 installments.  (Schoemann received the $10,000 on January 1, 2018 and then on January 1, 2019 it appears he received 5% of his gross salary for 2016 which is $6327.75 and on January 1 of 2020, 5% of his salary for 2017 which is $6644.15.)

-Deferred Compensation.  Beginning January 1, 2018 and continuing for the term of this Agreement, County shall make a contribution to a deferred compensation account approved by Administrator.  The amount of the contribution for 2018 shall be $6,000’ The amount of the contribution shall increase by $3,000 per year every year thereafter during the term of this Agreement.  (Deferred Compensation is a program to invest money for retirement.  Washington County employees must use their own money to invest in this program.  This contract specifies taxpayer funds are invested for the Administrator).

Performance Bonus. Administrator shall be eligible for a performance bonus in the amount of $10,000 each year upon a satisfactory annual performance evaluation as determined by the Executive Committee.   (The Executive Committee conducted a performance evaluation on the Administrator during an October 9, 2019 closed session meeting.  The minutes reflect that Schoemann was rated a 5.  I believe the County scale is 1 to 5.)

Other income.  Beginning January 1, 2018 and every year thereafter during the term of this Agreement, per Administrator’s direction, County shall make a payment in the amount of $5,000 to a health savings account established by Administrator.   (The County puts $728 per year in individual employee HSA’s, and the employee can add their own money).

Administrator, as of January, 2018, accrues paid-time-off (“PTO”) hours consistent with fourteen (14) years of service in the PTO table for Full Time non-represented employees with administrative leave and for the duration of this agreement will earn years of service credit consistent with the PTO table.   (2018 was the Administrator’s 5th year of county employment.  Also, unused PTO can be cashed out at time of separation).

Additionally there are two lengthy sections on Removal/Resignation/Separation and Severance.  Together, they indicate the ways Schoemann could be separated from the position and what the payout would be for each.  One specific method is Change in Form of Government.  It spells out that if the County, changes to a County Executive form of government, the Severance clause is followed.  That clause essentially states the County agrees to pay Administrator a one-time lump sum cash payment equal to six (6) months of his current annual salary, and, extend paid health insurance coverage to Administrator and existing beneficiaries for six (6) months following removal.

A few thoughts… it is a shame that this is coming out less than a week before the election, but it needs to be known. This is one of the consequences of the decimation of local journalism with the rise of the internet. There was a time when it would have been someone’s job to watch local government. When a new contract like this was signed, they would have gotten a copy and reported it if anything was newsworthy. Now we are mostly relying on local citizens and a couple of small media outlets to cover the dozen or so governments just in Washington County.

The contract itself is a pretty sweetheart deal. Guaranteed raises, performance bonuses, expenses, and a separation payout clause? Sign me up! While County Administrator is an important position, I struggle to understand why the taxpayers needed to extend such a lucrative contract to attract good talent to the position.

The most egregious part of the whole deal, however, is the process. It was secretive, non-competitive, and just as you would expect the “good ol’ boy” system to work. For example, if they were going to so dramatically increase the compensation package for the role, then why not post the job to see if we had the best candidate we could get for that money? Or, if the County Manager was threatening to leave without the contract, why not let him quit and see if the county could get an equal or better resource for the money? As it is, we took the same guy and gave him a pretty substantial contract for the same work. It flies in the face of the cries of “frugal” and “broke” we get from the County leadership.

If you look at the folks who negotiated and signed this contract, they are many of the same people who have been writing letters of recommendation for Shoemann in his bid to be an elected County Executive. One wonders if they just want to keep the bodies buried when we have an independent, elected County Executive.


0806, 01 April 2020


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