01-27 protest-02

Elkhart city offices.  The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to fire City Secretary Carla Sheridan.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, members of the Elkhart City Council fired City Secretary Carla Sheridan, despite an almost unheard of contract clause that guarantees Sheridan a $100,000 severance.

With a total budget of about $850,000, plus an emergency fund of $130,000, the city will pay Sheridan roughly 10 percent of its operating capital.

Put another way, Sheridan's severance equals $77 for every man, woman, and child in Elkhart, a community of 1,300 people.

Money for Sheridan's severance will come from the city's emergency fund.

In the world of municipalities, a severance of that size for the city secretary could be without precedent in Texas.

Asked if the new city secretary would get a contract similar to Sheridan's, new Mayor Jennifer McCoy gave an emphatic “no.”

“Never again,” she said. “Not on my watch.”

McCoy said Sheridan did not fit into the city's plans.

“I have no ill-feelings toward Carla,” McCoy told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “The council thanks Ms. Sheridan for her service and wishes her nothing but the best.”

All city departments are fully funded, McCoy said. “I don't anticipate a problem; the new budget cycle is coming up soon.”

Calls to Carla Sheridan were not returned.

Former Palestine Public Works employee Amy Ashforth has been named interim-city secretary.

Palestine City Secretary Teresa Herrera, who doesn't have a severance package, said she never heard of a city secretary with a deal like that.

Ditto for Palestine Public Works Director Tim Perry: “My tomorrow is not guaranteed,” he said. “Cities rarely offer contracts over five years – if that long.”

Appointed city secretary in 2015, Sheridan was granted a 10-year contract with the city in August of 2017. She was guaranteed a lump-sum payment of $100,000 within 30 days of termination, if she were fired for anything other than a felony.

Elkhart Public Works Directory BJ Perry received a similar contract, with an identical severance package.

Critics of the termination have called the move personal, noting McCoy's husband is Elkhart Volunteer Fire Chief Randy McCoy. In October of 2017, the city council evicted the EVFD from its fire station.

Sheridan's husband, Chris Sheridan, was a councilman in 2017, and a vocal supporter of disbanding the EVFD.

McCoy called accusations of her acting personally are unfounded.

“As mayor, I don't get a vote, other than to break a tie,” McCoy said. “Also, I didn't have the item put on the agenda, Council-member Taylor Bentley did. The council decided – the vote was unanimous.”

Council member Taylor Bentley, who defeated former mayor pro-tem Billy Jack Wright in a landslide victory last month, said council members and Sheridan disagreed over the city secretary's role.

“We're trying to move forward,” Bentley said. “It's become apparent that we cannot do that with the same people in the same positions.”