Local News

80K to Make a Town Manager Go Away

June 25, 2012

By Michael Scerbo

We now know the details of the separation agreement between former Town Manager Enrique Ochoa and the town of Tusayan.  He is being paid $81,685.84 to go away and keep his mouth shut.

Ochoa and the Town parted ways in May following a long and drawn out battle over Ochoa’s evaluation. Executive sessions followed and it became clear there not going to be a gold watch.

This separation agreement is not a golden parachute that was a part of Ochoa’s original deal with Town Hall.  The town was not obligated to pay the outgoing Town Manager. They could have just let him go and cut him a small check for any unreimbursed expenses. That didn’t happen here. It appears the 80 grand is a payout that was crafted after the Town Council decided to part ways with Ochoa.

Ochoa had been outspoken in how he dealt with complex issues. By his actions he considered the Town’s best interests to be above the council’s personal agenda. Thanks to a public records request, we have the terms of the separation agreement between the Town and Ochoa along with the dollar figure, more than 80 grand.

Here is a link to the agreement. (We redacted Ochoa’s personal address)

In exchange for the cash, Ochoa agrees not to sue the Town Council, which would have been interesting given what he knows. The settlement states,

“….. Ochoa hereby completely releases, acquits and forever discharges the Town and its representatives, heirs, successors, assigns, affiliated entities, elected officials, council members, officers, directors, agents, employees and attorneys (collectively,
the "Released Parties") from all claims including all rights, demands, actions, obligations, liabilities and causes of action of any and every kind, nature and character whatsoever, known or unknown, which Ochoa may now have or has ever had against the Town or other Released Parties, including without limitation (i) all claims arising from or in any way connected with the employment of Ochoa by the Town or the cessation thereof occurring prior to or after the execution of this
Agreement; (ii) all claims which Ochoa may have filed in any court of law or before any municipal, state or federal agency arising from or in any way connected with the employment of Ochoa by the Town or the cessation thereof; (iii) all claims pertaining to Ochoa's job performance while employed by the Town; and (iv) all claims for costs and attorneys' fees, except claims or proceedings necessary to enforce the provisions of this Agreement.”

The settlement also buys Ochoa’s silence. Basically it says he cannot criticize the Town Council. It also prevents him from spilling the beans about his tenure:

“Ochoa agrees to keep confidential all information and documents obtained by Ochoa during the course of his employment with the Town in connection with his service as Town Manager.”

The council quietly approved this agreement following an executive session that wrapped up a meeting that lasted more than four hours.

The nagging question is that if the Town was within its rights to let Ochoa go, then why the 80k settlement? $80,000 is a large amount of money when you consider the town only has about 500 residents. Do the math. The council’s decision to part ways with Ochoa cost every man, woman, and child in Tusayan $160.