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Danville city manager seeks to extend severance pay, make other changes to contract
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Danville city manager seeks to extend severance pay, make other changes to contract

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Danville's city manager wants extended severance pay if he is terminated for no reason. 

He is also seeking to transfer retirement assets and accumulated sick leave from 14 years working for other local governments in North Carolina before he began working for Danville.

Danville City Council will consider Ken Larking's request during its upcoming meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers on the fourth floor of the Municipal Building.

City council members who spoke to the Danville Register & Bee praised Larking's performance as city manager, and two longtime council members said past managers have had similar provisions in their contracts. 

"I think the request is in order," said City Councilman Sherman Saunders, who has served on council for 22 years, including eight years as mayor. "All the things he wants to do, they were in contracts with city managers long before him."

Saunders has worked with five city managers during his time on council. 

Larking, who has worked for the city of Danville since March 2013, wants six months of severance pay — instead of the current four — if he is terminated from his position without cause. His current salary is $177,019 per year. 

He oversees the city's roughly 1,100 employees. 

It is common for the requested provisions to be included in local government executive contracts, Larking said. 

"Typically, it would be abnormal for such a thing to not be in the contract," he said, adding that it may have been an oversight on his part that they weren't in his. 

It's typical for public employees to retire after 30 years of public service, Larking said.

"But to do that, they must have all their retirement assets under one system," he said. 

Otherwise, Larking, 47, would have to work another 22 years in Danville — until he is nearly 70 — to reach 30 years. He will have worked for Danville for eight years in March 2021.  

Larking's retirement assets from previous jobs were earned under the North Carolina Local Government Employees' Retirement System. If council approves his request, they would be transferred to the city of Danville's Employee Retirement System.    

Larking said he is not looking for a position with any other locality and that he has not even looked at his resume.   

"Danville has a lot of opportunities to make improvements for the people here," he said. "I look forward to working with a great group of individuals to accomplish those things."

Before coming to Danville, Larking worked in the budget office in Hickory, North Carolina, from the late 90s to the early 2000s before service as town manager in Yadkinville, North Carolina, from 2003 to 2010. He was assistant county manager in Moore County, North Carolina, from 2010-13 before becoming Danville's deputy city manager under Joe King.

In 2015, then-city manager King appointed Larking as acting city manager. Upon King's retirement, council appointed Larking as interim city manager before hiring him as city manager in 2016. 

Larking estimated he has about 900 hours – 22 1/2 weeks – of accumulated sick leave from his positions in North Carolina. Those hours would be credited toward his time working for Danville. 

City Councilman Lee Vogler called Larking "one of the best city managers in the country." 

"He's certainly been a part of the comeback that's happening in Danville," Vogler said, referring to economic development announcements in recent years, continued revitalization of the River District, the hiring of a new police chief and subsequent drop in violent crime, and a casino coming to the city. "I'd like for him to continue to be."

With his level of success, it's natural that other localities would likely seek him out, Vogler added. 

However, he said he needed to look at the details of Larking's request before deciding whether to approve it.

Vice Mayor Gary Miller said of Larking's request, "At this point, I think it's appropriate."

Miller added that he would likely vote in favor of Larking's request. 

"It's just a matter of time before Ken has an offer for him to go somewhere else," Saunders said. "I certainly hope that he is in no hurry to leave Danville."  

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