Clallam Public Utility District to pay $93,435 settlement to former treasurer-controller

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A $93,435 settlement will be paid to Josh Bunch, former Clallam County Public Utility District treasurer-controller, who was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 28 and resigned Tuesday.

Commissioners signed off on the agreement Monday after a half-hour executive session, board President Hugh Haffner said.

The settlement, described as a separation agreement signed Tuesday by Bunch and PUD General Manager Doug Nass, was obtained by the Peninsula Daily News on Wednesday as part of a state Public Records Act request for all reports and correspondences, including emails, related to Bunch being put on administrative leave.

Bunch’s payout consists of six months of salary and health care benefits totaling $78,686 and six months of accrued vacation time-paid time off and floating holiday time totaling $14,749.

Bunch was hired for the position June 28, 2006.

“This agreement is not to be interpreted as an admission or finding of any liability or wrongdoing by Bunch or the district,” the agreement states.

“It is the intent of the parties to make this release as broad and general as the law permits.”

Bunch resigned “for personal reasons,” according to the agreement.

“No other statements shall be made by either party.”

He was placed on paid administrative leave “due to a personnel matter,” PUD spokesman Mike Howe said in an earlier interview.

The settlement calls for payment of the $93,435 to Bunch — minus taxes, deductions and holdings — by March 18, Howe said.

Under the settlement, the PUD will respond to inquiries about Bunch’s PUD employment only by providing a mutually agreed-upon reference letter, Bunch’s dates of employment, his title or titles and compensation data.

Commissioner Will Purser, who attended the meeting via phone, and Haffner voted to direct Nass to enter into the agreement with Bunch and sign the settlement, Haffner said Wednesday.

Commissioner Ted Simpson was on a trip to Mexico and did not participate in the meeting, Haffner said.

Bunch, who received a 4.5 percent raise Jan. 1 to $136,000 a year, had been on paid leave since Jan. 28 “while he and the PUD worked toward the resolution of legal differences between them that have nothing to do with any financial issues,” Nass said in a statement after the meeting Monday.

“In order to avoid a protracted dispute that would not be in the best interests of the PUD or the PUD’s ratepayers, the PUD will pay Josh a severance package, and Josh has resigned to pursue new employment opportunities.”

Haffner said he did not know whether Bunch had threatened to sue the PUD.

Purser, Simpson and Nass did not return calls for comment.

Bunch was not present at Monday’s meeting.

Bunch has not returned repeated calls requesting comment since being placed on leave and was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

His home phone number had been disconnected.

The PUD’s labor attorney set the figure that will be paid to Bunch, Haffner said.

“It had gotten to the point where it needed to be settled,” Haffner said.

“I do not feel uncomfortable about the settlement because we did the best we could to get the best for the PUD.

“He’s resigned, and we would rather just be done with it.

“If there was a lawsuit, it would be more expensive; it could be a lot more expensive than what we end up settling [on],” he said.

Two other documents besides the settlement agreement were supplied by the PUD in response to the PDN’s public records request.

Nass issued a four-sentence memo Jan. 28 to employees informing them that Bunch was on leave until further notice and that district auditor Dave Papandrew would become the acting treasurer-controller, which he will continue doing, Howe said Wednesday.

The third document was a 3-page log of documents the district said were exempt from disclosure.

They included a legal memo, a “summary of communication between Joshua Bunch and PUD employee,” personal emails and text messages, and a letter from a psychologist to PUD attorney Jerome Rubin.

Reasons given for nondisclosure included that the documents were “work product generated in connection with a controversy to which the PUD is a party,” that the material was obtained “in anticipation of litigation” and that the material “is personal and unrelated to governmental operations.”

Haffner said he would not elaborate on Bunch’s job performance “because it’s a personnel issue.”

Bunch was responsible for overseeing a 2014 budget of $72 million.

The PUD treasurer-controller is in charge of the district’s day-to-day accounting functions and supervises the PUD’s customer-service representatives, meter reader and accounting and finance employees.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 05. 2014 7:32PM
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