When James J. Allen retired as executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency in April 2016, the IDA kept paying him for another eight months.
It wasn't a payroll mistake.
Carlton N. Brock Jr., chairman of the Amherst IDA's board of directors, said the board and Allen agreed in spring 2016 that he would step down after 36 years as the IDA's leader, but the board approved paying him through the end of the year.
The board approved the severance package by a 6-0 vote at the April 2016 meeting, shortly after abruptly announcing Allen's retirement.
Allen earned $179, 848 in salary – plus a $5,400 vehicle allowance – for a total of $185,248 that ranked him third among all IDA chiefs in the state, more than the heads of agencies that cover major metro areas, according to records from the Authorities Budget Office.
Allen said he was paid through the end of the year in case the board or an agency staffer needed to consult him for an ongoing lawsuit the agency was involved with or for other projects that were underway. "I was available," Allen said, though he did not perform any work for the IDA after leaving his position.
He also said, "I won't call it a bonus, but there could have been some kind of a payout for all the years that I had been there."
One critic called the post-retirement pay to Allen concerning.
"It's not quite as egregious as the retirement payment that the head of Equifax received, but it smacks of the same sort of lack of accountability, and it's very concerning to see that kind of attitude transferred from the private sector to the public sector," said Susan Lerner, executive director of the nonprofit Common Cause New York. "It's not acceptable in the private sector when it's shareholder money, it's even less acceptable when it's taxpayer money."
Allen said his salary reached the level it did in part because he was with the Amherst IDA for nearly 37 years.
Allen had a record of attracting business to Amherst during his tenure, but with that came charges that the town's growth came at the expense of Buffalo and other neighbors.
A report from the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester found that between 1979 and 2015, the 370 companies that received Amherst IDA tax breaks helped increase the town’s tax base by roughly $570 million, while creating 25,600 jobs that paid, on average, nearly 50 percent more than the typical job in the Buffalo Niagara region.
When the IDA board negotiated a contract with Allen's successor, David S. Mingoia, his deputy, it reduced the pay package for the post. Mingoia receives $120,000 a year, and he does not receive a vehicle allowance.
"We thought that the position didn't warrant the pay that Jim was receiving," Brock said. "And so when we went to hire Dave, you'll notice, I think he's paid almost $60,000 less."