La Paz County Administrator Ron Drake has resigned. He has been with the County since 2017. District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor said he had objections to the County giving him a “golden parachute”.
In a 2 to 1 vote of the Board of Supervisors, Holly Irwin and DL Wilson voted in favor of accepting Drake’s resignation, with his last day of employment on December 31st and giving him 6 months pay beyond that date. In the sole vote against it, Minor said the arrangement was not what was set out in the terms of Drake’s employment contract.
“My vote was against the severance package,” Minor told Parker Live. “I wasn’t upset that he was leaving, I was against the severance and I think it’s unfair to taxpayers.”
Minor said that Drake’s employment contract, adopted in 2018 and beginning in January 2019, was very clear: that if Drake chose to resign, he was choosing to walk away with no further financial obligations from the County. Only if Drake was fired for no cause would he be eligible for a buyout, with tiers depending on which year of his contract the termination happened.
“If we terminated his contract for no cause within the first year, he’d get 12 months pay. In the second year, 9 months pay. In the third year, 6 months pay. Funny enough, the rush on this vote seemed to be based on the idea that he was in his second year of the contract, so he thought he should get 9 months pay, even though he’s choosing to resign.”
Minor said the Board scheduled a special meeting to talk about it, with a private ‘executive session’ at the beginning, and that he believed it was going to be a 2 to 1 vote giving Drake the 9 months pay as severance. But then, Civil Deputy County Attorney Ryan Dooley came in with a new agreement that Minor said he hadn’t seen before, giving Drake 6 months pay instead.
Parker Live asked Minor whether it was true that he and Plunkett – whom Minor publicly endorsed during the election – would have teamed up to terminate Drake’s contract in 2021, causing Drake to wish to resign on his own terms first.
“Look, it’s no secret that I had some problems with Ron Drake,” Minor admitted. “He’s done some good, too. But I couldn’t get the existing Board to evaluate his performance, another thing that is written in the contract. We’re supposed to have goals, benchmarks, objectives. He’s an employee working for the Board. We never did any of that. Truthfully, I can honestly tell you that I don’t know what would have happened with the new Board. He could have stayed, we could have addressed some things like I wanted to, it wasn’t like I just wanted to fire him no matter what.”
What Minor was voting against, he said, was not Drake’s resignation, but the “golden parachute” he was being given, despite the letter of the contract.
As far as who may replace Drake, Minor said the Board had many options.
“We don’t have to have a County Administrator, per statute. We could spread the duties around, we could hire an interim Administrator, we could do many things. We’ll have to see what the new Board chooses to do.”
Minor also praised his outgoing colleague, DL Wilson, who will be leaving in days, as his term comes to an end.
“Diane Green gave a very nice presentation, she gave DL a nice clock and was very flattering to him and the rest of the team, including Ron. She said the County has made more progress in 4 years than it had in many years before. I agree with that. We didn’t always agree, but I like DL and I think it was a great way to mark the progress we’ve all made together.”
Drake was hired by the Board during a financial crisis for the County. According to statements given to the Parker Pioneer, he agrees with Minor that the County has made progress during his tenure. Financial stability, implementing the new solar land deals, new IT systems and adjusting the County’s spending limits are among the accomplishments he listed.
As Wilson’s elected successor, Plunkett says he will focus on results as a new Supervisor.
“During the next four-year term for our Board of Supervisors, La Paz County will celebrate our 40-year anniversary, and yet our County’s population and economy has experienced very little growth,” Plunkett said in a public letter before the election. “That is even more concerning when we see all our neighboring counties experiencing tremendous growth and prosperity. We should be thriving by now!”