City attorney’s $274K retirement payout approved

City attorney Sylvia Firth

The El Paso City Council approved a separation agreement of more than $274,000 for former City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth.

Despite calling this a retirement, the payout suggests Firth was terminated.During the special meeting council voted to approve on the agreement between Mayor Dee Margo and Firth.

An open records request shows Firth will be given six months of severance pay, or $124,340, $103 for her vacation balance, $127,116 for sick leave and an additional $22,484 in "vacation runout."

KFOX14 asked Dee Margo the tough questions on Friday. Margo declined to talk but he suggested we take a look at the council's agenda for more information.

During the special meeting, the City Council voted to approve the agreement between Mayor Dee Margo and Firth.

We now know what led up to the city parting ways with Firth.

“The questions are: Why did this occur? It's mutually agreed to. I knew where we stood as a council,” said Margo. “Based on the evaluation process, which came to me, changes needed to happen. We determined it was in the best interest of council and city to make a change."

Firth's contract calls for a six months’ severance if she's terminated, which is exactly what she's getting, despite the city calling this a retirement.

“The contract itself and the terms and conditions that were approved this morning state the nature of the relationship,” said Linda Ball Thomas, the director of the Human Resources Department.

“The agreement did follow her contract,” said Thomas.

She also said retirement and termination are not necessarily different.

“If you have enough time with the city, you can retire,” said Thomas.

The separation agreement also prohibits city leaders from speaking to the media about the agreement, and KFOX14 asked how common that is in separation agreements.

“I cannot address that,” said Thomas.

The agreement completely releases the city from any claims or age discrimination complaints.

Rep. Peter Svarzbein was the only council member to vote against the agreement.

“I just had some more questions,” he told KFOX14.

The agreement directs City Manager Tommy Gonzalez to handle questions from the media and provide "positive responses."

But Gonzalez did not take any questions today after the meeting.

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