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Departing Bainbridge public works director to be put on administrative leave

Bainbridge Island’s outgoing Public Works Director Lance Newkirk will be placed on paid administrative leave for two months before he steps down from his job with the city.

According to Newkirk’s separation agreement with Bainbridge Island, the paid leave is a special deal that isn’t based on any previous contractual commitment between Newkirk and the city. It guarantees Newkirk will get an additional two months’ worth of salary in addition to the two months of severance pay the city will give Newkirk upon his departure.

“The parties agree that this paid leave is designed to aid employee’s transition to alternative employment and is not something employee is otherwise entitled to receive under any pre-existing agreement between employer and employee,” the separation agreement states.

The agreement was obtained by the Bainbridge Review after a public records request by the newspaper.

Newkirk did not respond to requests to talk about his departure from the city. City Manager Doug Schulze also did not respond to a call for comment.

The three-page agreement sets out July 31 as Newkirk’s last day of employment with the city.

Newkirk, however, will be placed on paid leave from June 1 through July 31, according to the agreement, and will be paid his regular compensation and benefits.

The arrangement means Newkirk will continue to accrue vacation time while he is on paid leave, and Newkirk will also be cashed out for any unused vacation — plus receive his severance pay — on July 31.

Newkirk’s annual salary is $131,088, so the severance agreement amounts to roughly $43,000, plus pay for unused vacation time. A city official said Newkirk’s vacation time has not yet been calculated.

According to the separation agreement, Newkirk will also apply for unemployment benefits and the city has agreed not to challenge his unemployment claim.

Under the agreement, Newkirk also agreed not to file any legal claims against the city, and the agreement also includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits Newkirk or city managers and elected officials from making “derogatory or disparaging statements” about the other.

Newkirk signed the agreement on Wednesday, April 24 and City Manager Doug Schulze signed it on Thursday, April 25.

The city announced Newkirk’s departure the following day, on Friday, April 26, via a press release that was sent out after city hall closed for the day.

The agreement had apparently been in the works for some time before then. The agreement also noted that Newkirk was given a copy of the separation agreement for a 21-day “review period.” He was also given a week following his signature of the agreement to have it revoked.

The last two high-profile employees to leave the city were also placed on administrative leave before they left their jobs.

Sue Shultz, who was police commander for Bainbridge until her resignation in early December, was placed on administrative leave while an investigation was launched into claims of gender discrimination by two of her fellow officials. The allegations could not be proven.

The city’s last police chief, Jon Fehlman, was also placed on administrative leave while other largely unfounded accusations were investigated by the city. He resigned in September after an outside investigation cleared him of any illegal wrongdoings.

Both Shultz and Fehlman received severance packages after their departures.

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