Helms' final check $82k
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - For Rick Helms, parting was such sweet sorrow.
Published: July 29, 2012
Published: July 29, 2012
He fought to keep his job, but three commissioners voted to terminate his contract, so the former Highlands County administrator, dismissed on July 3 after 38 years as county employee, banked his final paycheck on July 20.
Helms netted $82,078. And 93 cents.
The check would have been $20,000 more; however, on a W-4 form signed the day he picked up his final check, he asked the county to deduct an additional $20,000 in withholding taxes.
That made his year-to-date gross $205,345.54, according to a memo and supporting documents from County Attorney Ross Macbeth.
Helms replaced Mike Wright, who was fired June 22, 2010. Helms' first eight months were as interim county chief at the assistant administrator's salary of $116,000, but in February 2011, he signed a two-year contract.
He negotiated for a $135,000 annual base salary instead of the $129,000 he was offered by then-commission Chairman Barbara Stewart, and a $135,000 life insurance policy.
On July 20, his final paycheck detailed the result of those negotiations: 1,233.43 hours banked in sick leave for $68,997.
Also included was 120 days of severance, for $44,272. In negotiations, Helms had asked for 90 days of severance pay if he were to be dismissed without cause, but Commissioner Don Elwell offered 120 days as compensation for the lower salary Stewart was insisting on.
Helms also negotiated for paid time off instead of vacation and sick pay, so he received 128.40 hours, or $8,333. Helms had taken 232 hours this fiscal year, according to the paycheck issued by the clerk of court's office. The check included $2,249 for 120 days of insurance.
On the deductions side, FICA took $1,386, Medicare $1,795, federal tax $13,146, Florida Retirement System $250, and deferred compensation $25,184.
Helms negotiated for a contract with $5,000 in deferred compensation the first year and $10,000 in the second.
Deductions from Helms' side totaled $41,763; Highlands County paid an additional $4,565.
In order to receive the check, Helms signed a release acknowledging that his contract was paid off: "Ricky G. Helms hereby remises, releases, acquits, satisfied and forever discharges Highlands County and its Board of County Commissioners … arising out of or related to that certain Employment Agreement dated Feb. 15, 2011," it reads.
The commissioners had the option of allowing Helms to work until his contract expired but chose not to.
Highlands County should have been preparing to hand out a gold watch, Commissioner Greg Harris suggested on the day Helms was fired.
"Instead, we're kicking him to the curb," Harris said.
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