Elkhart City Hall

For the second time in three months, the Elkhart City Council voted unanimously Monday to terminate a high-ranking city employee, while denying a $100,000 severance payment outlined in the employee's contract.

BJ Perry, public works director and nine-year city employee was terminated during Monday's city council meeting. As public works director, Perry made $75,000 per year.

“I was told by the city administrator after the meeting they have no intention of paying out the terms of my contract,” Perry, 47, told the Herald-Press Tuesday.

Perry and former City Secretary Carla Sheridan were given almost unheard of 10-year contracts in August, 2017, which guaranteed them each $100,000 if they were terminated for anything short of a felony conviction.

Sheridan was terminated June 4; the council's decision to withhold her severance came roughly a month later. It is unclear on what legal grounds the city council will use to uphold rescinding the severance agreements.

“Mr. Perry was terminated for failing to abide by state and federal licensing rules,” City Administrator Judith Cantrell told the Herald-Press. “He failed to follow rules and regulations set forth in the city's permit, issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to discharge waste.”

Cantrell said that while the city continues to address the legality and validity of the contracts offered to Perry and Sheridan by past administrations, the severance packages will not be honored.

“It's a legal issue,” Cantrell said. “Until it is settled, the city maintains no payments that encumber our hard-working taxpayers will be made.”

Suspended last Thursday, Perry said he wasn't surprised by the council's decision, but wished they had given him a chance to correct whatever problems council members had with his performance.

“The handbook used to state, I believe, that someone needed three write-ups for a problem before they could be fired,” he said. “I guess it isn't that way anymore.”

A single father of two daughters, Perry said he is unsure of what he will do next to make ends-meet; complaining, and speaking ill of his former employer, however, are not in his plans.

“You have to have an attitude of gratitude,” Perry said. “I have been blessed to work with a group of guys who really knew how to get the job done – and get in there and get dirty along with them – I'm really going to miss the public works crew immensely.”

Mayor Jennifer McCoy told the Herald-Press the decision to terminate Perry was difficult for the entire council, and that it was in no way a personal matter.

“Each member of the council is personally upset about last night’s decision to terminate Mr. Perry,” she said. “However, that decision was based purely on work performance issues.”

Cantrell said TCEQ officials have been notified of the city's plans on how they will operate in absence of a public works director, and the city has gotten their blessing.

A job posting for Perry's replacement will be posted by end of business Tuesday.

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