CERES — The city last month painted a picture of an amicable separation with Art de Werk, who served as its police chief and public safety director for 15 years, but the contract spelling out his exit from the city looks more like a bitter divorce.
De Werk will be on paid leave for more than eight months but promised not to make any “disparaging remarks” about the city or enter any of its private facilities without permission, according to a separation agreement released to The Modesto Bee on Monday in response to a public records request.
De Werk will earn his monthly salary of $11,646 until Feb. 28 and this month will be paid 40 hours of sick time. That salary and initial sick pay total nearly $95,000. He also will receive nearly all his benefits through that time, with the exception of a few, such as uniform and automobile allowances.
The remainder of his sick and vacation time will be paid to him upon his retirement, and his annual pension also will be calculated at that time, said City Attorney Mike Lyions. He did not know Monday how many hours of sick and vacation time de Werk has accrued.
While he technically doesn’t retire until next year, de Werk has agreed to be relieved of all of his duties associated with his positions as police chief and public safety director.
Further, he may not “enter any city of Ceres facility or office except to the extent otherwise permitted to the general public, or as approved by the city manager,” according to the contract.
At the time the agreement was signed, de Werk had to surrender all city property – including cellphone, keys and credit cards – and coordinate with City Manager Toby Wells to remove any private property from the Police Department.
De Werk also agreed not to take legal action against Ceres regarding his separation from the city and may not make any “disparaging remarks” about the city or any of its employees.
During a closed-door meeting June 16, the City Council voted 4-0, with Vice Mayor Bret Durossette absent, to approve the separation agreement.
De Werk was on medical leave for about two months beginning in April for treatment and surgery for a benign mass in his brain.
He returned to work on light duty in early June but went back on medical leave several days later after the first of two closed-door meetings to discuss his “discipline, dismissal or release.”
The meeting came a day after the council approved a budget that included freezing the deputy chief position and discussions of a possible reorganization that could result in layoffs.
Under the agreement, de Werk will continue his medical leave through July 20, the date he was scheduled to return to full duty. The remainder of the time, he will be on paid leave.
De Werk said in a text message Monday to The Bee: “I wasn’t ready to leave the organization for at least a year or two, but the surgery and other circumstances changed my plans. I spent many good years with Ceres and it was one of the best times of my law enforcement and fire services career.”
Consistent with his contract, he said he could not discuss the issue further.