Commissioners approve three-year contract for county manager

Sharna Johnson

Curry County Commissioners approved a three-year contract with County Manager Lance Pyle Wednesday that includes a six-month severance clause.

The 3-2 vote to approve came following a more than hour-long executive session held after a special meeting at the courthouse.

Commissioners Caleb Chandler and Dan Stoddard opposed the contract, both saying their votes were not a reflection on Pyle’s performance.

“I just have a real problem … obligating people in the future who are not here yet,” Chandler said, explaining there could be three new commissioners in two years who will be committed to the contract.

“My vote’s not to be interpreted in any way as a reflection on the county manager’s performance.”

Stoddard echoed Chandler’s sentiments.

“I just feel very uncomfortable with this economic time,” he said.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr said counties across the state negotiate their county manager contracts in a variety of ways, including severance clauses.

Statute allows contracts to be negotiated in excess of six years, Doerr said.

The six-month clause amounts to $51,000, he confirmed at Chandler’s inquiry.

“The last two county managers that we’ve had had at least a three year contract,” Chairman Bobby Sandoval said. “I see absolutely no problem.”

Commissioner Wendell Bostwick echoed the sentiment.

“This is certainly less than the statute allows,” he said.

The contract pays Pyle a salary of $102,000, including a county vehicle, $5,000 expense budget, laptop, cell phone stipend and 20 vacation days, plus health and retirement benefits.

He is not eligible for cost of living or other percentage raises given to county employees and any raises must be approved by the commission.

The county will also pay his tuition in pursuit of a masters degree in business, management or public administration.

If Pyle resigns, he must give no less than 60 days notice unless the commission approves a shorter notice.

If he is terminated at-will and without cause, he will receive his regular salary and benefits for six months from the date of termination, according to the contract.

Pyle, 30, was hired in December 2007 following the resignation of Dick Smith.

His starting salary was $87,500.

Pyle started working with the county in 1998 while in high school and continued working for the county throughout his college years.

He performed a variety of roles in county administration under former county manager Geneva Cooper. He worked as assistant county manager under Smith.