Last month, TPPF’s James Quintero testified before the House Committee on County Affairs in support of House Bill 3775, a bill reform severance payments to government officials and independent contractors. The bill is currently with the Calendars Committee.
Below are his prepared remarks delivered orally to the committee.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee—
My name is James Quintero and I represent the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I am here to testify in support of House Bill 3775.
The bill before today seeks to solve a large & growing problem. That is, some local governments are giving golden parachutes to employees as they leave—and the practice is hurting core services, Texas taxpayers, and classroom kids.
To give you a sense of how pervasive the problem has become, allow me to highlight a few examples.
- In 2018, Katy ISD gained notoriety for giving its outgoing superintendent a $750,000 buyout, awarded even after allegations of bullying and plagiarism emerged.
- In 2019, Laredo’s city manager left his position with a package worth more than $880,000. He received a, quote-unquote, “smorgasbord of benefits and cash on his way out the door, such as health insurance until the days he dies,” according to The Texan.
- In 2020, Lubbock’s city manager quit his job and walked away with $225,000, which was equivalent to “his annual salary plus benefits.”
- Just last month, the Dallas Morning News shed a little more light on the $2 million buyout offered to Lancaster ISD’s outgoing superintendent, which has been temporarily halted by a Dallas County judge. The handout that you’ve been provided explains the issue more fully, so I won’t belabor the point, but it’s very clear from the article that the status quo enables at least the opportunity for impropriety.
I can cite to you at least a half-dozen more different examples, but hopefully the point has been made: Government employees are getting golden parachutes—and sometimes even under concerning circumstances.
Today’s situation calls for reform. We need commonsense changes like those proposed by HB 3775 to:
- Cap severance payouts at a definite amount;
- Withhold payouts in the event of employee misconduct; and
- Require greater government transparency.
And let me just close with—Texas is behind other large, populous states in adopting reforms like this. States like California, Illinois, and Florida have already implemented very similar measures—and they are better off for it.
So let me say something that I hope to never repeat again—please help reform Texas public policy so that it looks a little more like those is California and Illinois, at least when it comes to severance payments.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.
- Garland ISD: In January 2017, Garland ISD parted ways with its superintendent and provided him with an “aggregate payment amount” of $686,225.50. That amount included “the total amount of salary owed, benefits, leave and vacation time, and other perks” and was more than double his annual base salary of $282,733.
- Johnson City ISD: In January 2017, the Johnson City school district—a small ISD with student enrollment of less than 750 students—awarded its outgoing superintendent with a severance payment of $256,727. His base salary was $149,547—and the payout came at a time when the district was struggling with an almost $1 million deficit.
- Spur ISD: In February 2017, Spur ISD—a district with less than 300 students enrolled—made a $175,228 severance payment to its superintendent. Her base salary was $109,928.
- Bloomington ISD: In March 2017, the Bloomington ISD board awarded $291,591 to its superintendent. Her annual salary was $199,697.68.
- Higgins ISD: In June 2017, Higgins ISD—a district with only 122 students—paid its departing administrator $187,803. His annual salary at the time was just $97,490.
- La Joya ISD: In 2019, La Joya ISD secretly approved a $467,000 severance package for its controversial superintendent. “Benavides received $319,069.06, which compensated her for a year of lost salary; an additional payment of $148,240.05, which compensated Benavides for 105 leave and vacation days at $1,411.81 apiece; and a new job: ‘Transition Assistant to the Interim or Acting Superintendent’”…