WELLFLEET — Maria Broadbent, the Wellfleet town administrator who lasted nine months from August 2020 to April of this year, received four months’ severance pay after her resignation.
According to the six-page “employment settlement agreement” obtained by the Independent through a public records request, the select board gave Broadbent 120 days of pay as a lump sum amount based on her annual $160,000 salary. That amounted to $53,334, or double what she was entitled to, according to the terms of her contract with the town.
According to that contract, signed in June 2020 when she accepted the job, Broadbent would be entitled to a 60-day severance if she was forced to resign.
It is not known exactly why Broadbent left so suddenly following an executive, that is, closed session on April 23 with the select board. But it is widely believed that the board was not happy with her performance. When she resigned just nine months into a three-year contract, the town meeting warrant and town budget were nowhere near complete, and the town’s finances were in complete disarray. The newly hired town accountant resigned that same week.
A week before Broadbent left, six department heads publicly complained to the select board that Broadbent’s proposed budget for fiscal 2022 did not match the numbers they had negotiated with her.
“There’s a recurring theme,” board chair Michael DeVasto said at the time. “Cuts were made, but departments weren’t notified or consulted about those cuts.”
It is expected to take months or even years to iron out the financial record-keeping problems at town hall, according to Interim Town Administrator Charles Sumner. These accounting issues pre-dated Broadbent’s arrival in Wellfleet.
DeVasto said he is barred from saying anything about the settlement agreement. Board member Ryan Curley said the same thing. Broadbent, who was the town manager of Berwyn Heights, Md. for two years before she came to Wellfleet, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The extra severance payment is standard operating procedure in situations where an executive with a contract is asked to leave, said Michael Fee, an attorney with Pierce & Mandell and a Truro resident. One of his specialties is employment law.
The original contract proffers one severance amount, but it does not include a clause stopping the executive from suing the employer, Fee said. That is what the extra severance pay buys the town, he added.
According to the severance agreement, both parties mutually agreed to a “non-disparagement” clause — that is, they both agreed not to say anything bad about the other in public. Broadbent also agreed to give up all claims against the town, that is, her right to sue for anything including “intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful discharge, claims of severance pay, interest, attorney’s fees,” and the like.
The settlement agreement also states that the town must refrain from making negative statements about Broadbent if anyone calls asking for information about her.
“The town can only provide Broadbent’s title and the dates of Broadbent’s employment,” it stated.
This neutral stance is not regarded as a negative performance review by perspective employers, said Bob Nicoson, an independent human resource consultant living in Provincetown. That is because many employers have a policy never to give out references. It is just easier, Nicoson said.
Broadbent had been fired before she came to Wellfleet. In 2018 Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley terminated her from her job as head of the Annapolis office of environmental policy. Buckley let her go under political pressure, Broadbent told the Independent in an earlier interview.