The Beaufort County school board approved the financial agreement ending embattled superintendent Jeff Moss’ employment without knowing how much it would cost taxpayers.
The mutual separation agreement, released publicly by the board’s lawyer Tuesday evening, does not explicitly state the dollar amount Moss will receive.
“To my recollection, we just guessed (at the amount),” board member David Striebinger said Wednesday.
He estimated last week that the total buy-out amount was around $280,000, a number he said he came up with by doing some quick calculations on his own during the roughly 10 minutes he said the board had to read through the five-page agreement.
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Moss’ contract includes several termination options, including “mutual agreement of the parties” — the avenue selected by the board and one of the few that lacks any detail.
The board’s attorney, Ken Childs of the Columbia-based Duff & Childs law firm, negotiated the separation agreement on the board’s behalf. On Wednesday, he referred questions about the contract that he had written to vice-chairwoman Geri Kinton, who he said was the “point person in handling all of this.”
Kinton said Wednesday she was not alarmed by the agreement's lack of a specific dollar amount. She said that total would be affected by the number of unused sick and vacation days Moss has when his resignation takes effect July 31.
“There are still over 60 days in his contract left,” she said. “We can’t lock in that dollar amount."
She said Childs provided the board with a cost estimate — about $20,000 — for those unused days.
District spokesman Jim Foster declined to say how many unused sick days and vacation days Moss has accumulated thus far, citing it as personnel information.
The agreement, which came about two years before Moss' contract was set to expire, will provide him with:
- A $220,000 lump sum, equal to one year’s salary for the 2018-19 school year, to be paid Aug. 1
- A $44,000 annuity contribution to a retirement fund of Moss’ choosing
- An unspecified amount of unused annual leave at his unspecified daily rate of pay. Foster said Moss’ daily rate equates to his base salary divided by 260 working days. That means Moss, whose base is $220,000, will be paid $846 for each unused vacation day.
- An unspecified amount of unused sick leave as provided in district policy. Foster said sick days are paid at a rate of $10 a day.
Striebinger said he would have preferred the rates for sick and vacation days be included in the agreement.
The larger issue for him — and other members of the board's minority — was being initially denied a copy of the settlement agreement during the closed-door meeting last week.
After eventually receiving a copy, some board members said they felt pressured to approve the agreement that night and complained they only had minutes to read through the document before approving it.
Members of the board’s majority say the matter was handled appropriately and that the terms were “simple and straightforward.”
The agreement entitles Moss to keep the district-issued technology equipment provided in his original contract, which states he can receive a “laptop and/or I-Pad.”
The agreement also requires all board members to refer any "written or formal" reference requests to members who have served as board chairperson during Moss’ time in Beaufort County.
That means only four board members, all who have generally supported him, can formally speak to his five years with the district. Those members are: former chairman Bill Evans, former chairwoman and current board member Mary Cordray, former chairwoman Patricia Felton-Montgomery and current chairman Earl Campbell.