Dallemand severance deal far outstrips recent buyouts

hduncan@macon.comFebruary 26, 2013 

The severance payment the Bibb County school system is giving its outgoing superintendent is more than twice the annual salary of Georgia’s state school superintendent and three times the amount the DeKalb County school district agreed to pay its superintendent to leave earlier this month.

The Bibb school board voted Monday night to give Superintendent Romain Dallemand $350,000 in severance pay. Based on that agreement and his employment contracts, Dallemand received at least $771,000 in direct payments, plus further benefits, during his two years on the job. That’s more than $385,000 averaged over two years.

The DeKalb school board, facing possible removal from office after the district was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, agreed to pay Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson a severance of five months’ salary, or nearly $114,600.

If the separation had not been mutual, her three-year contract called for her to receive a full year of severance pay, about $275,000, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

State school Superintendent John Barge earns $130,300 annually, plus travel expenses of about $27,000, putting his total cash payments at less than Bibb has paid each of its last two superintendents.

Bibb also paid Dallemand’s predecessor to leave, but not as much. Sharon Patterson, who had been superintendent for a decade, received a year’s pay -- $198,0000 -- when the board bought out her contract in February 2010 amid an ethics probe by the state Professional Standards Commission. (Coincidentally, Patterson’s last day on the job was Feb. 26, 2010.)

Like Patterson, Dallemand received a base salary of $198,000. His initial contract called for him to receive a car allowance of $400 a month until January, when under a new contract it increased to $800 a month. Dallemand also received $15,145 to cover the expense of moving his family to Macon from Rochester, Minn., in 2011.

In addition, Dallemand’s initial contract covered $1,200 a month in living expenses for up to six months, health and life insurance, and pension and retirement benefits.

Dallemand’s new three-year contract was approved in December. It has been the subject of a lawsuit that seeks to void it because the contract, including the buyout terms, doesn’t match what the board approved in its public vote.

The contract stated that if the school board ended Dallemand’s employment before the three years were up, Dallemand would receive a full year’s salary, as well as $70,000 per year that he’d been on the job, and a year of health benefits.

The severance agreement approved by the board is actually even more favorable to Dallemand: It provides $12,000 more than the contract would have, and it extends health insurance through the summer of 2014 unless Dallemand finds a new job that offers health insurance before then.

The severance agreement also includes what could be an expensive perk: The Bibb school system will cover all of Dallemand’s court expenses and attorney’s fees related to lawsuits affecting him and the district. Three of them have already been filed, and their outcome -- and the district’s eventual liability -- remain uncertain.

Dallemand left his last job, as superintendent of the Rochester, Minn., school district, while a whistle-blower lawsuit was under way over his firing of the district’s chief financial officer, reportedly because she raised concerns about his spending and hiring practices. The Rochester school district settled that lawsuit in 2012 for $320,000.

One of the three ongoing lawsuits in Bibb County is a whistle-blower suit filed by Ron Collier, the school system’s former chief financial officer, who claims he was demoted because he balked at writing a check, despite pressure from Dallemand, that he thought might be illegal.

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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