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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nere’s deal is buyout, not firing by WHA

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday November 22, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

— Attorneys for the Wallingford Housing Authority and housing director Stephen Nere say that Nere was not fired last week by the housing board, but is leaving voluntarily with a six-figure severance package agreed on with the authority.

Nere’s attorney, Jaime Mills, and Warren Holcomb, the housing board’s lawyer, said an article in Saturday’s Record-Journal inaccurately stated that Nere was fired by the board and offered a severance package of $130,000. His contract was set to expire Aug. 31, 2012.

“Mr. Nere was not terminated,” Mills said. “There has never been any claim that there was cause to terminate him. In fact, they’re buying out his entire contract, which I think any of us would agree to if offered by our employer the full amount that is owed to us.”

The resolution approved by the housing board Friday night states that “it is in the best interest of the Authority to terminate Executive Director Stephen Nere’s written employment agreement early on December 2, 2011, to accept his retirement effective December 2, 2011, and to approve the Separation Agreement and General Release submitted.”

Nere said Friday night, after the resolution, he was too young to retire and was concerned about ongoing health issues. Holcomb said poor health was the primary reason Nere and the board reached an agreement for him to end his contract 10 months early and retire. “He was not fired,” Holcomb said. “If you fire somebody, you fire them for cause and they don’t usually get anything. He (Nere) also indicated that he had some health issues, so it was a situation where the parties sat down and said it would be in their best interests if they went their separate ways.”

Nere and the Housing Authority have been immersed in controversy for more than a year amid allegations of mismanagement, with scrutiny from local, state and federal officials. Nere, 60, has been director for 26 years and earns about $100,000 a year. The cost of the settlement and the severance package will be covered by the roughly $200,000 remaining in the “Ridgeland” account, Misiti said. In 2003, the authority sold its housing units on Ridgeland Road to a New Haven company for $1.2 million.

The authority operates 317 low- to moderate-income and senior housing units with an annual budget of about $1.5 million.

Board Chairman Michael Misiti was not available for comment.

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