The public's confusion about the departure of Public Safety Director/Police Chief Art deWerk from his position with the city of Ceres was not cleared up with the release of his severance agreement.
The agreement - which details that deWerk will be covered by medical leave until July 20 and then fall under more than eight months of paid leave - was released to the media by city staff. In a legal sense, deWerk's employment doesn't cease until next year, but the language of the agreement spells out city's distrust of deWerk. The agreement called for deWerk to surrender all city property - giving up his city cell phone, email account, keys and credit cards - and keep him from entering city property "except to the extent otherwise permitted to the general public, or as approved by the city manager."
In return, deWerk agreed to refrain from any possible legal action against the city regarding his separation and is not permitted to make any "disparaging remarks" about the city or employees.
The contract outlines that deWerk will be paid 40 hours of sick time this month. That cash payout coupled with his monthly salary of $11,646 - paid until Feb. 28 - will cost the city $95,000. DeWerk will remain entitled to his medical and dental benefits during his official retirement date. Upon his retirement, the city will pay deWerk any unused sick or vacation time. At that time his pension will be calculated.
DeWerk's 15 years with the city ended June 16 behind closed doors in a cloud of mystery. DeWerk had been on two months of medical leave but returned to work the week of June 9. A closed session was held on Tuesday, June 10 concerning deWerk. No action was taken, said City Attorney Mike Lyions, but during a second closed session (June 16) deWerk was gone. City Manager Toby Wells told the Courier that deWerk was not fired.
DeWerk appeared at only one council meeting following his April surgery. At the June 9 budget discussion, deWerk rejected Wells' recommendation that the city save money by freezing the deputy police chief position - vacant since the retirement of Mike Borges in March - as "such a bad idea." He said thin management would open the city open to lawsuits.
The city council has placed Deputy Chief Bryan Nicholes in charge of the Fire Division and Lt. Brent Smith in the role as acting police chief. It is unknown if the council plans to replace deWerk or dismantle the Public Safety Department concept to save money in a budget that contains a $1.8 million structural deficit.