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Severance deal for BMHA executive director included health insurance for rest of 2018

Former BMHA Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders-Garrett didn't just get a $107,250 severance payment when she resigned from the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority last month. She also got her health insurance paid through the end of the year – at a cost of $16,344, according to her BMHA termination agreement.

That agreement was released Tuesday by the BMHA in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by the Buffalo News after Sanders-Garrett abruptly resigned March 15.

The agreement confirmed that the BMHA gave Sanders-Garrett six months pay – $60,000 –  and also allowed her to cash in all unused, accrued vacation time as well as sick/personal time – worth $47,250, as The Buffalo News previously reported.

The agreement also states the BMHA will make a COBRA payment on behalf of Sanders-Garrett to continue her Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance through Dec. 31. The health insurance is currently worth $16,344.  If the cost increases, the BMHA will pay the increases, the agreement states.

The $107,250 in salary and benefits, in addition to the health insurance, brings the total value of Sanders-Garrett's agreement to $123,594.

The agreement also states Sanders-Garrett and the BMHA both wanted to terminate the executive director's employment.

A clause in the agreement states the  terms are confidential and that neither Sanders-Garrett nor the BMHA will  release details except under certain circumstances. Among the exceptions is "as required by law."

The BMHA refused to release the agreement or its details when Sanders-Garrett resigned, citing a confidentiality clause. The Buffalo News then contacted the state Committee on Open Government, whose executive director said that the BMHA agreement is public information that should be released. Putting a confidentiality clause in a public document does not change the fact that the document is public and must be released, said executive director Robert J. Freeman.

The Buffalo News then filed a Freedom of Information request with the BMHA and later with the city comptroller's office.

The city comptroller's office,  which prints BMHA salary checks, released copies of a  $107,250 "supplemental" payment made to Sanders-Garrett on  March 29. The checks showed she had accumulated 336 hours in unused vacation time and 483 hours in unused personal leave.

The BMHA  released the agreement itself Tuesday after going through an internal process, said BMHA chairman David Rodriguez.

Rodriguez declined any further comment on the agreement, but did say the housing authority has begun looking for a new executive director. The agency issued a request for proposals,  and hopes to appoint a firm in May to help in the search for a new executive director.

Sanders-Garrett, 50, served as executive director for almost 12 years, and was earning $120,000 annually.

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