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City gives Moody severance deal

By Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

Three days after a roll call vote in an executive session resulted in his firing, Platte City’s Board of Aldermen on Friday night struck a deal with Keith Moody, city administrator, on terms of a severance package.

Moody could be working at city hall for up to an additional six months, per the agreement.

The pact calls for Moody to continue to work for the city until July 31, 2008 or:

1.Until 30 days after the starting date of his replacement;

2. Moody’s acceptance of a full time job with another employer.

In addition, if the city hires a replacement prior to July 31, the city shall then pay Moody’s salary and insurance benefits for another six months.

In a related move, the aldermen held a special meeting Tuesday night (see related story) to begin discussing their search for Moody’s replacement.

Per the severance agreement, if Moody is still on the job as of July 31, the city must still pay the additional six months of salary and insurance benefits at that time. That’s in addition to continuing to pay him is normal salary while he works in the meantime.

If Moody leaves to accept another job, the city shall be relieved of any obligation to pay the six months worth of salary and benefits.

His annual salary is nearly $73,000, so six months worth of salary would be roughly $36,500.
Under terms of the agreement, which was approved on a 5-1 vote by the board, Moody will not apply for unemployment benefits.

In the agreement, Moody agrees he will not re-apply for employment with the city within twelve months from the date of the agreement, which was Jan. 25, 2008. Several aldermen indicated to The Landmark they interpret that to mean a future board of aldermen could not vote to keep Moody in his current position.

“My understanding through our attorney is that will prevent the next board from overturning this decision,” said Aaron Jung, board president, in an interview with The Landmark on Tuesday.

Mayor Dave Brooks, a supporter of Moody, has criticized the timing of the move. Two aldermen who voted for Moody’s dismissal--Jung and Kenneth Brown--will not be seeking reelection in April.

Jung denied the timing of the firing had anything to do with the fact he’ll be out of office in April.

“That doesn’t mean a thing. It’s appropriate to make these sorts of decisions at the time of an employee’s annual review,” he said, pointing out the board reviewed Moody’s performance each January.

“Last year I hadn’t had enough time to work with Keith Moody and it was unfair to make a judgment call. This year I scored him according to how I felt. I felt it was in the best interests of the city to make a motion (for Moody’s dismissal).

“When I was elected I ran on a platform of change. Opening up lines of communication between governmental agencies, etc. I made a commitment to my constituents that I would do my best to improve the communications and relationships with agencies and the general public,” Jung said.

“It was a business decision. We need to find somebody to take the organization to the next level.”

Jung said the decision to allow Moody to stay on the job for as long as six months “was not to disrupt the city.”

Alderman Andy Stanton voted against approving the severance package.

“I was dead set against this agreement. I didn’t vote for it. It could have been negotiated down some. We didn’t get anything besides the fact he cannot get unemployment benefits and he can’t reapply for employment with the city for 12 months,” Stanton said this week.

At the special meeting Tuesday night of this week, Stanton successfully urged the board tp delay adoption of ordinance accepting the severance deal to check into whether the language should include a paragraph noting that Moody agrees not to see legal action against the city.

Stanton said such a clause would protect the city against a potential “wrongful termination” lawsuit from Moody. The board voted to speak with the city attorney and Stanton said he would like an additional attorney to give counsel on the matter.

Though Moody has repeatedly in public interviews let it be known he is an at-will employee who worked without a contract, he did have what has been termed an “employment agreement.” That agreement allowed him things such as a $200 per month car allowance, and also contained a clause spelling out the six months worth of salary and benefits provision if employment was “terminated without cause.”

Stanton said he argued the point that the city did have cause to dismiss Moody. He said he received no verbal support from fellow aldermen in making his argument.

That employment agreement was dated Jan. 23, 2002, when Frank Offutt was mayor. Members of the board of aldermen in office at the time the agreement with Moody was approved included Dave Brooks (currently mayor), Jim Palmer, Shelle Browning, John Kurtz, Lee Roy Van Lew, and George McClintock.

Stanton said those who supported creation of that agreement should have known better.

“They knew this day was coming. I told Brooks that he and Palmer cost this city a lot of money.”

Moody’s firing, exclusively reported in last week’s issue of The Landmark, came on a 4-2 vote from the board. Voting for his dismissal were Aaron Jung, Andy Stanton, Ron Stone and Kenneth Brown. In favor of keeping Moody were Marsha Clark and Todd Sloan.

Terms of the severance deal were reached after a two hour, 45 minute executive session Friday night. Keith Hicklin, city attorney, was present in the board room during the session and after discussion with the aldermen would walk into the city administrator’s office, where Moody waited alone, to visit with Moody about the negotiations and offers/counter offers.

Often during discussion, media members waiting in the lobby outside the board room could hear portions of the discussion at those moments when voices raised above normal levels. Mayor Dave Brooks at one point could be heard saying: “Keith told me this morning he has no intention of staying here. Why would he want to be somewhere where he is not wanted?”

Under terms of the agreement, city officials generated a positive letter of reference for Moody. That letter praised Moody for his “character, commitment and drive” serving the city.

“It is no coincidence that Mr. Moody’s tenure coincided with an unprecedented period of growth and reinvestment in Platte City,” the letter of recommendation states, going on to praise Moody for specific work implementing the use of tax increment financing, community improvement districts, transportation development districts, and neighborhood improvement districts.

In written statement, Moody said he is “proud of the accomplishments achieved in Platte City during my 13-year tenure and have enjoyed serving the residents of this community. No matter where my professional career takes me in the future, Platte City will always be special to me.”

The board also agreed to issue a joint press release with Moody that glowingly praised him for his more than 12 years of service to the city.

Moody was listed as the point of contact on the “press release.”

That press release indicated the city anticipates beginning the recruitment process for a new administrator within a month and plans to have the transition complete by the end of July.

The roll call vote--confirmed for The Landmark last week by Clark--to dismiss Moody came last Tuesday night during the board’s annual performance review of the city administrator. This month marked the 13th anniversary of Moody’s employment with the city.

Though he had some successes, Moody was often criticized by many business owners, residents and in the media for a perceived lack of communication and public relations skills. He also was the front man for the city’s unsuccessful involuntary efforts in recent years, with blunders by the city resulting in added expenses and lawsuits. The city was found guilty of violating the state’s open meetings law during Moody’s tenure.

The Landmark had recently reported Moody’s resume had sought an open position with the City of Liberty in Clay County. He was unsuccessful in his attempt at gaining employment there.


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