Editorial: Landis settlement outcome’s not surprising

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 28, 2021

It’s the outcome people could have seen saw coming.

With a new group of aldermen incoming and some questionable language in his contract, the public could have seen Roger Hosey’s hiring as town manager in 2019 as likely to produce a costly divorce. Either that or the town would stick with Hosey for 60 months and allow him to learn how to be town manager on the job.

The first mistake was that the outgoing board, which didn’t seek re-election, chose to hire a manager on the way out.

The second mistake for the citizens of Landis was that Hosey’s contract included a clause about being paid two months of salary for every year of service with the town if he was fired without just cause within 60 days. Because Hosey was hired in 2007, his firing in January 2019 meant he could be due up to two years of salary.

Someone suspected Hosey would be fired.

Perhaps the outgoing aldermen wanted to protect Hosey. They may have read over the clause without realizing its implications. But there was little chance Hosey would be fired for “just case” as defined in the contract — a felony conviction or any crime of moral turpitude.

Hosey personally took on the task of bringing transparency to the resignations and alleged financial impropriety of former manager Reed Linn and finance director Ginger Gibson. He may not have been a qualified town manager pick, but he wasn’t going to commit a felony crime just after he spent months trying to unravel the crimes allegedly committed by Linn and Gibson.

When the new board fired Hosey in January, Mayor Meredith Smith said he was terminated due to “just cause” — the trigger word in Hosey’s contract. She obviously didn’t mean it in the way Hosey’s contract defined it, but that didn’t matter.

Because he was fired and hadn’t committed a relevant offense, Hosey will now receive $187,500. Hosey’s attorney will receive a separate amount of $62,500, according to reporting by the Post’s Natalie Anderson. He’s prevented from talking about town matters publicly. Aldermen also cannot talk negatively about Hosey.

Is the town of Landis in a better place without Hosey? Was getting rid of Hosey worth the money they’ll now receive? Answers may vary. The current staff, however, have done an exceptional job of putting Landis back on the right track and deserve praise for it. Hosey has moved on and will be happy to receive the money he’s owed.

In Landis and every other municipality, Hosey’s amended contract and firing should be a cautionary tale for new town board members. The outgoing manager may be objectionable, but he or she also may take a nice chunk of change on the way out.

Citizens should be skeptical, too, whenever an outgoing board hires a town manager shortly before new members are sworn in.

Salisbury’s ongoing manager search is an example of the right way to handle things: Name a capable interim and let the new board sift through resumes after taking their seats.