To ensure that outgoing Planning Chief Bob Pederson won’t sue Island County, the commissioners have agreed to pay him more than $21,000 and provide him with a letter of recommendation.
In a separation agreement approved by a majority of the board just two days after Pederson submitted a letter of resignation, March 4, Pederson waived any right to bring a future claim against the county.
In return, Pederson will receive the equivalent of two months’ salary and benefits, totaling $21,045, and a glowing, page-long letter of recommendation highlighting his accomplishments over the past three and a half years.
The agreement was approved by the board at its weekly work session, March 6. According to Elaine Marlow, who serves as budget director, board clerk and as the county’s risk manager, it was brought forward solely at her request.
“Given the unique situation concerning Commissioner Kelly Emerson and the planning department, I thought it would be best to limit any potential future risk on the county’s part,” said Marlow, in an interview this week.
The agreement was approved and later signed by Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, chairwoman of the board at the time, and Commissioner Jill Johnson.
Emerson, chairwoman of the board, was present at the meeting but did not participate in the vote.
She has been battling it out with Pederson and Island County Planning and Community Development since late 2010 over what began as an un-permitted project at her Camano Island home.
The issue mushroomed into a two-year-long saga involving a court battle. Emerson sued the county and Pederson over thousands of dollars in fines and a debated wetland on the property.
To date, Emerson owes $37,000 in fines and she has a building permit issue that remains unresolved. The commissioner has maintained that settling the issue has been in the hands of Pederson so it’s unclear what will happen now that he is resigning.
According to Marlow, Pederson’s annual salary was about $76,000, not including benefits. His resignation date is effective April 5 but last working day on the job is March 29, according to the separation agreement.