Lucrative severance deal for Providence’s ex-HR director denied

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Elorza administration’s attempt to pay the city’s former director of human resources $138,000 as part of a severance agreement stalled Wednesday when a City Council committee voted against the lucrative deal.

The City Council Committee on Claims and Pending Suits voted 3-2 to deny the payment to Sybil Bailey, a 57-year-old woman who had worked for the city since 2002 until she abruptly resigned in February.

Chairman Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4) and Councilors Michael Correia (Ward 6) and James Taylor (Ward 8) voted to deny the severance package. Councilors Helen Anthony (Ward 2) and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) opposed the recommendation to deny.

“I didn’t feel comfortable rewarding somebody for being terminated from their position,” Narducci said after the meeting. “And I don’t think, moving forward, it would set a good example at all for future people being terminated or let go from their position.”

Narducci said the committee was told Bailey was terminated even though the severance agreement signed Feb. 5, claims she resigned from the positon.

Bailey did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. A spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza said the administration plans to discuss “next steps” with its legal counsel.

As part of the deal, the city agreed to pay Bailey $138,000, which included a year’s salary and $11,000 for accrued and non-discharged vacation and floating holiday time. The administration also agreed to pay for health benefits for her and her spouse for a year, and to not challenge her pension.

In exchange, Bailey agreed to not sue the city or disclose any terms of the agreement to anyone except for her legal counsel, spouse or financial advisor. The deal also included a non-disparagement clause.

Monday’s vote marked the first time the Claims Committee considered a severance package for a for a city employee since the City Council approved an ordinance last July that requires a council vote on deals valued at more than $10,000. The city’s law department has acknowledged it made a mistake when it didn’t send a $43,000 severance agreement for former city fleet manager Michael Grant to the council in September.

Providence has entered into severance agreements with 26 former employees since Elorza took office in 2015, although Bailey’s deal was worth far more money than the other deals. City officials say the severance agreements help avoid litigation, which can be more costly to the city.

Narducci acknowledged an attorney for the city warned the committee that Bailey could file a lawsuit, but said it didn’t change his mind.

“Let the chips fall where they may,” Narducci said.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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