Shake up continues as county administrator resigns

Thu, 04/19/2007 - 5:46pm
By: John Thompson

For the third time in just over two years, Fayette County has a new administrator.

Public Safety Division Director Jack Krakeel agreed early Wednesday evening to take over as county administrator after the Fayette County Commission asked County Administrator Chris Venice to resign after an executive session.

“With our large budget, we just didn’t feel she had the management expertise,” Commission Chairman Jack Smith said.

After the vote, the commissioners asked for the resignation and Venice agreed. Venice packed her items up, and quietly left the administrative complex early Wednesday evening.

Venice had worked for the county for more than 20 years and served in a variety of jobs, from planning and zoning director to director of the county’s community development division. She became the county administrator in August, 2005 after serving in the position for a six-month interim after former County Administrator Chris Cofty was dismissed.

In February, 2005, the County Commission voted unanimously to end the nearly five-year relationship with Cofty.

The reason the board cited was that it was “time for a change.”

“The board unanimously felt like it was time for new management,” said then-Chairman Greg Dunn.

Cofty’s contract called for four months severance if he was terminated from his position. With an annual salary of $119,800, Cofty received a nearly $40,000 severance package.

On Thursday, Smith confirmed that Venice will receive a one-year severance package of $128,000 plus insurance coverage.

Venice’s contract was the subject of a lengthy discussion at County Commission meeting last December. The Commission passed a revised contract that called for one year’s annual pay over the objections of Commissioners Robert Horgan and Herb Frady.

At the meeting, Chairman Dunn said that all the commissioners agreed to the severance package when Venice took the job, because she would be giving up a lot by taking the position. He also pointed out that one-year’s pay was fair for someone who had worked for the county for 20 years.

But Frady disagreed and said he had a duty to the taxpayers and could not agree to paying her for a year if the contract was not renewed or she was terminated.

On Thursday morning, the mood was somber at Stonewall Avenue as department leaders entered the building for a 9 a.m. meeting to talk about the change in administration.

As he left the meeting, interim administrator Jack Krakeel said he was focused on getting the county through the transition.

“We have the budget coming up and I want to make this as smooth as possible,’ he said.

Krakeel also said that Deputy Chief Allen McCullogh would serve as interim Public Safety Director.

Earlier this week, Public Works Director Lee Hearn tendered his resignation. But as he entered the department head meeting, Hearn said the change in administration could affect his decision.
“There are now options on the table that I’ll have to think about,” he said.

Efforts to contact Venice were not successful by presstime.

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