Education

El Dorado County schools chief gets $125,000 to resign after two DUI arrests

Former El Dorado County schools chief Jeremy Meyers
Former El Dorado County schools chief Jeremy Meyers

El Dorado County schools chief Jeremy Meyers received a $125,000 buyout package this month for resigning after being arrested twice on suspicion of drunken driving.

In exchange for stepping down Nov. 14, Meyers will receive a lump sum payment equal to his salary through June 2016 – $114,821 – minus taxes and other withholding items, according to a copy of the agreement obtained late Monday through a Public Records Act request. The El Dorado County Office of Education also will pay Meyers a lump sum of $10,930, equal to his medical, dental and life insurance benefits through June.

The deal was negotiated by attorneys for Meyers and the El Dorado County Board of Education after the superintendent’s Nov. 5 arrest. Meyers was taken into custody after he crashed his truck into a utility box around 2 p.m. and allegedly had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal limit, according to the California Highway Patrol.

“I think it is preposterous that someone that resigns in shame should be soaking the taxpayers for that amount of money,” said Cris Alarcon, a longtime El Dorado County resident and community activist who previously called on Meyers to step down.

Buying out the contracts of school district administrators who have fallen out of favor is common, especially when school boards want to avoid litigation, said education lobbyist Kevin Gordon. But this case is unusual because Meyers is an elected official and had no contract that guaranteed his pay over a specific period of time.

What Meyers had was the power to remain in office despite his second arrest in five months on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The Board of Education had no authority to remove Meyers unless he was convicted of a felony, was recalled from office, was mentally or physically unable to carry out his duties or moved out of the jurisdiction, according to the state government code. Meyers faces four misdemeanor charges, but no felonies.

The Board of Education said Tuesday in a statement that the separation agreement is in the best interest of the El Dorado County Office of Education: “As an elected official, the county superintendent was legally entitled to complete the remaining three years of his term of office, and any legal or other challenge to the county superintendents right to continue in office would have been potentially expensive and lengthy.”

The agreement allowed the board to make an immediate leadership change at the Office of Education and to quickly encourage qualified applicants to apply for the vacant position, the board said. “The actions of the Board of Education allow the El Dorado County Office of Education to return its full attention to ensuring that the standard of excellence our community expects and deserves continues both now and into the future.”

County education boards have authority over the salaries of elected county superintendents, Gordon said. That stands in contrast to other elected officials whose salaries are set in statute and apparently gave the El Dorado board the ability to offer a buyout in exchange for Meyers’ resignation.

The El Dorado County Board of Education unanimously accepted Meyers’ resignation at a special meeting on Nov. 17, but the terms of the confidential agreement were not made public at the time.

State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, criticized Meyers for seeking a payout.

“In a situation like this, where you’ve had two DUIs in five months … the right thing for Jeremy Meyers to do is resign without pay,” Gaines said. “I don’t think the taxpayers should be picking up the tab for that settlement.”

Meyers, 45, had not returned to work since his Nov. 5 arrest. He was previously convicted in August of driving under the influence on June 9, and his conviction record indicates his blood alcohol content was higher than 0.15 percent when he was cited in the previous incident.

As county schools superintendent, Meyers was responsible for fiscal oversight of El Dorado County school districts. He also oversaw the County Office of Education, which has 412 students at five schools. Those include charter schools and campuses that provide special education, adult education and educational programs for incarcerated youth. The office also provides payroll, printing and other administrative services to the county’s 15 small school districts.

Meyers was a bad example for the young people of El Dorado County, Alarcon said. Residents who attended the Nov. 17 board meeting announcing Meyers’ resignation indicated they would have sought a recall if the superintendent had not stepped down.

“If he didn’t choose to resign, he would have been recalled,” Alarcon said. “That is part of the reason I’m so resentful of the huge payoff.”

Meyers was appointed superintendent of the El Dorado County Office of Education in 2013 to complete the term of Vicki Barber, who retired. He was unopposed in the 2014 election and won a four-year term. He drew a $196,837 annual salary and $9,320 in medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits, according to the Office of Education. The county office paid him $7,600 for travel, mileage and expenses.

The El Dorado County Board of Education voted Monday to seek applicants to replace Meyers, whose term would have ended in 2018. The application is expected to be available online at www.edcoe.org after Dec. 1. The board is expected to name El Dorado County’s new superintendent of schools on Jan. 5.

Alexei Koseff of The Bee’s Capitol Bureau contributed to this report. Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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