One element of incoming Sedona Fire District Chief Kristian Kazian’s employment contract stands out as surprising. If by some caprice of this or the next Sedona Fire District Board of Directors, Chief Kazian is terminated without cause, he will be entitled to a severance package of three years’ salary plus six months’ health insurance for himself and his family.
That’s probably a really smart move on his or his attorneys’ part, given that Former Chief Nazih Hazime lasted less than two years into his three-year contract. However, Nazime was not let go either with or without cause. He resigned, and in compliance with his contractual agreement, gave the Board 60 days’ notice.
What Board of Directors would be stupid enough to fire Kazian, knowing they would have to pay his three years’ severance in addition to hiring another chief (or doing without one)?
The agreement does, however, set up a good challenge. No matter how difficult any Board of Directors might make things for Kazian, he is smart enough to stick it out, not even thinking of resigning, because it would be to his advantage to keep his nose clean, perform all his work above reproach, and if the Board is still aggravated enough with him to want him gone—whether they don’t like his management style, or whether they just don’t like a chief managing at all—the Board would then be put in the position of sticking it out, or writing a check for $405,000 or three years of his then-current salary minus taxes.
Let’s look at the major comparisons and contrasts between the two chiefs’ contracts:
Former Fire Chief Nazih Hazime
Incoming Fire Chief Kris Kazian
|Contract date: May 29, 2009||Contract date: February 22, 2012|
|Work start date: September 1, 2009||Work start date: March 19, 2012|
|Term: 3 years, with 3-year auto-renewing||Term: 5 years, with 1-year auto-renewing|
|Salary: $130,743.14||Salary: $135,000.00|
|Other benefits: vehicle for personal and business use, business-related travel and expenses, insurances (health, life, disability), retirement, clothing allowance of $750 annually, 30 days’ vacation, etc.||SAME|
|Cell phone reimbursement: $125/month; later cut to $75||Cell phone reimbursement: $75/month|
|Travel allowance: self & wife’s travel to and stay in Sedona prior to employment, consistent with IRS rate; travel expenses incurred for him and his wife in conjunction with one trip to Michigan for purposes of closing on the sale of his home in Dearborn, Michigan, even if said closing does not take place until after Chief Hazime is employed by the District.||Travel allowance: Chief Kazian
|Moving allowance: [a "reasonable amount" of moving expense was allotted; ask for documentation per the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much was reimbursed—allegedly not near $16,000]
“it is agreed that the District’s obligation to reimburse the moving and travel expenses for Chief Hazime’s spouse shall be limited to the sum of $2,000.”
|Moving allowance: Employer shall reimburse Employee up to $16,000.00 of his reasonable moving expenses and costs incurred in moving from Libertyville, Illinois to Sedona, Arizona as approved by the SFD Governing Board.|
|Temporary housing: “relocation allowance consisting of monthly rental or mortgage reimbursement for housing in Sedona, Arizona, in an amount not to exceed $2,400 per month for up to one year for prior home sale”
Chief and Mrs. Hazime bought a house in the Sedona Fire District right away. To ascertain whether they used any of the temporary housing allowance, ask for documentation under the FIA.
|SAME MONTHLY ALLOWANCE|
|Board discontinuity: This clause, item 5.2 termination, appeared in Chief Hazime’s contract: “Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary, any newly elected board may, within 90 days of being seated after said election, terminate this contract without cause.”||Omitted in Kazian’s contract.|
|No “non-interference” clause in Hazime’s contract.||Interference: “the SFD Governing Board shall not unnecessarily interfere with the aforementioned responsibilities of Employee unless Employee’s conduct in carrying out such duties rises to the level of constituting grounds for termination for cause in accordance with Section 3 of this Agreement.”|
The above-submitted contract comparisons and contrasts are offered without judgment. The facts are presented so you can decide. The author’s opinion is that Kazian negotiated a very sharp contract, having watched the current Board of Directors in action. Former Chief Hazime did not have that luxury, nor would he have had any reason to suspect a Board could or would take over operational decisions at the level this current Board has.