El Paso News

City explains why Firth severance pay is 'legally sound'

(KTSM) - The City of El Paso offered an explanation Wednesday as to why it believes the more than $250,000 payout to outgoing City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth is legally sound.

As KTSM has reported, the money is part of a separation agreement between the city and Firth that was put together by Mayor Dee Margo and ratified by the El Paso City Council on Monday.

The agreement includes about $124,000 in severance pay, roughly six months' worth of Firth's salary.

KTSM has for weeks been asking city officials to clear up, on the record, why Firth is legally able to receive the money since she is retiring and not being terminated. The terms of Firth's employment contract only mention severance pay as an option if she is terminated without cause, not if she willingly resigns.

City Human Resources Director Linda Thomas—the only person the city is allowing to comment—indicated that when the council approved the separation agreement, the newer document overrode Firth's existing contract.

"The ratified agreement between the mayor and council is the document that is actionable at this time," Thomas said.

As for why Mayor Margo included the severance money in the first place and why the city council approved it, no one is saying.

Monday's vote to ratify the agreement was 7 to 1 with Rep. Peter Svarzbein being the lone vote against.

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