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Swartz says retirement package wasn't 'dirty'

August 14, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioners Vice President Paul Swartz said Tuesday that former Economic Development Commission Director John Howard received compensation based on accrued sick and vacation time as part of his retirement package.

Swartz said Howard possibly received severance pay.

Swartz said he will try to figure out the total amount paid to Howard and release it to the public later this week.

"It looks like the commissioners are doing something under the table and dirty," Swartz said. "Nothing has been done dirty."

He said a part of the retirement package is confidential for personnel reasons and cannot be discussed publicly.

Howard had been on paid administrative leave since late March and retired May 8. The county announced his retirement June 11. His annual salary at the time of his retirement was $82,067.

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With the exception of Swartz, the County Commissioners and other county officials have refused to say how much Howard received as part of his retirement. Swartz was on vacation at the time and could not be reached for comment.

The Herald-Mail twice requested the amount under the Maryland Public Information Act, but County Attorney Richard Douglas denied both requests. Douglas had said that the amount could not be disclosed because it was part of Howard's personal income, not salary, and that the information was confidential.

"I don't suppose it's a secret," Swartz said of the amount.

Swartz, who said he thinks Howard was a valuable county employee, said he believes another county official wanted Howard to leave. He said he wasn't satisfied with how Howard's retirement came about, but said he couldn't elaborate on the issue at this time.

"I just suppose somebody was hoping that he would leave," Swartz said. "That's the way it looks."

He said the Economic Development Board was not immediately told that Howard had retired.

"They were totally surprised," Swartz said.

Swartz said he tried to convince Howard to stay.

"When you have a valuable employee, you try to do everything to keep him here," Swartz said. "You don't let him get away from you."

He said he wants to be honest with the taxpayers.

"To my standpoint, I haven't done anything immoral," Swartz said. "I have nothing to hide. I'm 64 years old, and I'm not about to start now."

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