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Kathan gets year's pay

In an agreement described as "a mutual effort to avoid potential litigation," St. Croix County will pay longtime Personnel Director Debra Kathan nearly a year's salary although she won't be required to report to work this year.

A copy of the resignation agreement between the county and Kathan was received last week through an open records request filed by RiverTown Newspaper Group.

Kathan, 52, who was the county's human resources director for over 24 years, will be paid at her current rate of pay from Jan. 6, when she was placed on administrative leave, through Dec. 22. Her hourly rate is $41.26 - hich amounts to $82,520 for the 50 weeks she will be kept on the county payroll.

Supervisor Daryl Standafer, who was chairman of the Personnel Committee when Kathan resigned, said the county agreed to pay her for accumulated sick and vacation time plus one week's pay for each of the 27 years she worked for the county.

At the end of 2005, only two county employees -the administrative coordinator and the highway commissioner - were paid more than Kathan.

Under the terms of the agreement, Kathan is to remain available to the county for consultation on labor and employment matters through Dec. 22. But all communication with her must be through the county's labor attorney, Stephen Weld, or Assistant Personnel Director Eileen Graham.

According to the agreement, it protects the county from claims that could be asserted under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Older Workers' Benefit Protection Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act or the Fourteenth Amendment.

All usual deductions and withholdings will be made from Kathan's paycheck, and the county has agreed not to contest unemployment benefits requested at the end of the year.

The agreement allowed the county to stop paying its share of Kathan's health insurance premiums at the end of March.

At the time of her resignation, Kathan characterized the separation as amicable.

Was she pressured to resign?

"No, I wouldn't say that," replied Standafer. He said it became apparent to the parties that it would be "preferable to agree to separate."

A transcript of a Dec. 16, 2005, department head meeting received by RiverTown Newspapers through an anonymous source indicates that county administrators complained about progress on implementation of a compensation system.

Springsted, an independent financial advisory firm, was hired two years ago to revise the job description and classification plan used for about 200 non-union county employees. The intent of the revision was to develop a consistent, organized system based on tasks performed by jobs in 15 pay grades.

According to discussion at the Dec. 16 meeting, job descriptions were to go back to department heads for review in the summer of 2004. Many of the department heads said they hadn't received their packets of job descriptions. They said they weren't consulted when some descriptions were revised, leaving out or misreporting duties.

Standafer said Kathan's resignation wasn't specifically tied to the Springsted study.

"The Springsted study was simply part of that," he said. "There was no one issue. There was simply an agreement that we were going to move in a different direction."