El Dorado County’s Health, Human Services director gets $165k in severance after quitting

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

Don Semon stepped down as El Dorado County’s Health and Human Services Agency director April 19 and received nine months severance pay — about $165,000 — on the way out.

Don Semon

Semon will also receive an additional $90,000 for leave balances for a final paycheck totaling approximately $255,000.

Semon did not respond to the Mountain Democrat on reasons for his departure but the paper did receive a statement from Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton through the county’s Communications and Outreach Director Carla Hass by email, which states, “Mr. Semon has submitted his voluntary resignation and will explore other opportunities outside the county.”

According to the statement, the county agreed to pay out Semon the nine months severance pay, plus any other payouts to which he is entitled, while Semon agreed to waive any claims against the county.

“As is commonplace when ending executive-level employment relationships, the parties entered into a settlement agreement to resolve any outstanding claims and to allow both parties to move forward,” the email continues.

Auditor-Controller Joe Harn told the Mountain Democrat the last executive-level severance agreement his payroll staff can recall took place in 2014.

Former Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly received a severance package worth about $187,000, when she resigned in 2014. Daly also received nine month’s severance pay.

The Board of Supervisors at the time agreed to accept Daly’s resignation. Daly at the time said it was a mutual decision for her to resign.

Tax-collector Karen Coleman confirmed with the Mountain Democrat that the Health and Human Services director’s compensation was about $220,000, which would put Semon’s severance payout at more than $165,000.

“When I heard this announcement about the severance pay for the director of Health and Human Services reported out of closed session yesterday, I was surprised,” Coleman states in an email to the Mountain Democrat. “This payout goes beyond what is in the agreement by about $55,000. This decision is not good for the county’s taxpayers or for the morale of the dedicated employees of our county.”

According to the county salary and benefits resolution for unrepresented employees, adopted Feb. 4, 2020, if the county terminates any department heads, they are entitled to six months’ base salary if employed for at least one year.

Semon became the Health and Human Services director in 2019.

The resolution also states that department heads are not entitled to severance pay if they resign but that any appointed department head will release all claims against the county as a condition for severance pay.

If the county had gone with the six-month agreement, the payout would have amounted to more than $110,000, according to Coleman.

“The board’s action was a mistake. This huge payout will be very bad for morale and is unfair to the taxpayers,” Harn said. “The county has a number of very hard-working employees and they won’t understand this board action.”

At the Board of Supervisor’s meeting April 19, County Counsel David Livingston announced an agreement had been executed on a 3-2 vote in a closed session item, with District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo and District 4/Chair of the Board Lori Parlin dissenting.

On April 25 supervisors will vote to approve Daniel Del Monte as interim director of Health and Human Services via consent calendar.

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