Petersburg residents could pay over $115K to part ways with city manager and attorney

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City Manager William Johnson III (left) City Attorney Brian Telfair (right)

City Manager William Johnson III (left) City Attorney Brian Telfair (right)

PETERSBURG, Va. — Could two city leaders in Petersburg get paid to leave?

Petersburg’s City Council voted Thursday to negotiate separation agreements with City Manager William Johnson and City Attorney Brian Telfair.

At the time, CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Council Member Treska Wilson-Smith if taxpayers would have to pay for the pair to leave.

Wilson-Smith told her “I hope not.”

Hipolit obtained employment contracts for both Johnson and Telfair through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

City Manager William Johnson’s contract, which was made on January 22, 2015, shows if Johnson is terminated without cause, he will receive a severance payment equal to six months of the his salary at the time of termination.

According to the contract, Johnson’s base salary is $170,221, with an additional $10,000 to be paid in deferred compensation per year.

That would mean Johnson’s severance payment would be $85,110.50.

But, the contract shows that if Johnson is terminated for cause, he will not receive a severance payment.

According to the contract, malfeasance or misfeasance, unsatisfactory performance or any other behavior or conduct that might be deemed by employer to adversely affect the confidence of the public or the integrity of the City, are among the reasons Johnson could be terminated for cause.

City Attorney Brian Telfair’s contract, which was made on October 21, 2014, shows if Telfair is terminated without cause, he will receive a severance payment equal to one month of salary for each twelve month period of service up to a maximum of six months of salary.

Records show Telfair began working for Petersburg in December of 2012, which means he would be entitled to three months of his salary or $33,750.

But, like Johnson, the contract shows if Telfair is terminated for cause, he will not receive a severance payment.

According to the contract, lack of diligence in the execution of the responsibilities and obligations of his office, unsatisfactory performance, misfeasance or malfeasance in office, misconduct, and failure to maintain on a continuous bases a residence in the City of Petersburg, are among the reasons Telfair could be terminated for cause.

Also of note, Hipolit received Telfair’s original contract with the city, which was made on December 12, 2012.

In that contract, Telfair received a $5,400 per year vehicle allowance, which does not appear in his 2014 contract.

His salary listed in the 2012 contract was $115,000, which was $20,000 less than his 2014 contract.

Telfair’s 2012 contract required him to move to the City of Petersburg, but his 2014 contract did not require residency in Petersburg, although failure to maintain on a continuous bases a residence in the City of Petersburg, was among the reasons Telfair could be terminated for cause.

Also of note, in the signature section of his 2014 contract, Telfair wrote “subject to issues discussed with Mayor Moore on 10/30/2014-agreeing to all items but permitting additional discussion on severance provisions.”

Hipolit asked Petersburg what those issues are and is still waiting to hear back.