Baltimore County Passes Policy Giving County Executive Veto Power Over Severance Payments
BALTIMORE COUNTY - On Monday, the Baltimore County Council voted unanimously to approve a compensation policy for officials and executive staffers who resign or retire. This decision comes almost five years after the council canceled a similar plan amid concerns that the payments primarily benefitted political appointees.
The severance request was added to a county charter provision requiring the council to provide compensation (up to 90 days after the end of employment) for “exempt service employees,” including elected officials, department leaders, and executive/ legislative staffers.
The policy was approved with a 7-0 vote and will give the county executive near-complete control over what employees receive severance pay and how much. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2023.
Under the new bill, each severance request will be decided on a discretionary basis by the county administrator, with the county executive holding veto power over all decisions.
In 2017, former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz introduced a similar plan, his “executive benefit plan,” which was widely criticized for quietly paying generous severance packages to top executive staffers.
Later that year, the Charter Review Commission, responsible for recommending county charter changes, suggested that the county council must approve severance compensation for appointed employees.
A referendum was added to the ballot in the 2018 election, requiring council approval of a compensation system for top officials and similarly classified employees. Baltimore County voters subsequently passed the referendum.
County Council chair Julian Jones, along with council members David Marks, Izzy Patoka, and Todd Crandell, approved Olszewski’s severance policy on Monday and voted in 2018 to add the ballot question requiring more oversight of severance compensation.
Additionally, in 2022, Baltimore County publicly admitted to paying a former official unused sick leave for nearly a year after he retired from county government in July 2021. The payments to former economic development Deputy Director William “Chris” McCollum were quickly halted after the information became public.
Last month, McCollum was charged with felony theft, perjury, and embezzlement for allegedly using his position as treasurer of two Baltimore County Democratic political campaign committees to steal over $110,000.
The Baltimore Banner spoke with Stacy Rogers, Baltimore County’s top administrator, who said the payments to McCollum continued as “an informal thing that was being done before we even came there."