BLADENBORO —As of noon on Monday, Town Administrator Delane Jackson was no longer employed by the town. But the circumstances surrounding his removal from the position remain cloudy — primarily because of the wording of several sections in his contract.
According to information from Mayor Livingston Lewis and Jackson, an offer was made by the town council as a whole, with Lewis as their spokesman, for Jackson to resign.
Lewis said the decision to offer Jackson the chance to resign was made during a series of telephone calls last week, after which a letter was sent to Jackson from Lewis.
In his letter, Lewis stated: After consultation with the Board of Commissioners the Town of Bladenboro, a majority of them believe that it would be in the best interest of you and the town for you to resign. As Mayor, and as a representative of the board, I am hereby delivering this offer for you to accept resignation. In order to allow you time to remove your personal belongings from Town Hall the resignation can be effective at noon Friday December 6, 2013. In accordance with your contract, you will be immediately paid your severance package along with all other benefits accrued vacation pay and longevity pay.
Jackson sent Lewis a return letter, resigning his position with the town effective at noon on Monday.
“We actually spoke with all five of the council members … they all agreed,” said Lewis. “I did not ask him to resign. It was not asked so that I could pay him (his severance package).”
Lewis said even though Jackson did resign, his severance package covered in his contract will still be triggered. The severance package includes six months salary and accrued vacation time. Lewis said that Jackson has been paid his severance in the amount of $31,000 and the money is already in the town's budget. According to Lewis, there will be no required budget amendment to cover the severance pay.
“He could have refused and stayed on, but since the council offered him the opportunity to resign, he did,” said Lewis.
“If your employer came to you and said we're giving you the chance to resign rather than be terminated, what would you do?” Jackson said.
According to Jackson's contract, written and put into place on Nov. 25 by a 4-2 vote, a resignation clause states: “In the event that the Employee voluntarily resigns his position with the Employer, the Employee shall provide a minimum of 30 days notice unless the parties agree otherwise.”
The mayor and town council, however, accepted the resignation immediately.
Despite the fact that he was given a choice, Jackson said he is not looking at this as a voluntary resignation, which removes the 30-day stipulation in the contract.
“I've been terminated, which the contract allows,” he said.
Under the “termination” portion of the contract, it is defined as: “The majority of the governing body votes to terminate the Employee at a duly authorized public meeting.”
A phone call to Bladenboro Town Attorney Wes Johnson was not immediately returned.
Bladenboro's new town council — which includes new Mayor Rufus Duckworth and town councilmen Jeff Atkinson, Tim Benton Jr., and re-elected Councilman Billy Ray Benson — will be sworn in tonight.