MassHousing paid settlements to terminated workers

Three employees received a total of $144,552

THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency terminated three employees earlier this year and cushioned the blow by paying them a total of $144,552, according to records grudgingly released by the agency.

The employee terminations followed soon after Timothy Sullivan was named executive director of the authority at a strange meeting of the board of directors in January. The board replaced Thomas Gleason with Sullivan, who at the time was the authority’s chief financial officer, without doing a search and without any notice. The whole process took 10 minutes.

Later that month, Sullivan terminated two of the top employees at the agency – Philip Hillman, the chief administrative officer, and Deborah Goddard, the managing director for policy and program development. Their annual salaries were $198,979 and $184,152, respectively. Charles Gladstone, a loan officer making $103,918 a year, was terminated in February.

MassHousing signed settlement agreements with all three employees. Hillman received a total of $56,867, which included $49,285 in severance and $7,582 to be available for consultations for a two-week period. Goddard received a total of $61,325, which included a $47,139 severance payment, a $3,434 “performance” fee, $7,252 to be available for consultations over a two-week period, and $3,500 for out-placement assistance. Gladstone received $26,360 in severance.

Hillman and Goddard had worked at MassHousing for two years. When they were hired, Gleason praised them for their extensive experience in state government, nonprofit operations, and housing management and development. “They will play important roles in helping us achieve the goals and objectives of our news strategic plan,” he said in a statement at the time.

After Sullivan was named executive director of the authority at a salary of $257,550, Gleason stayed on as executive director emeritus at a salary of $251,024.

The authority paid the Boston law firm Greenberg Traurig $26,000 to provide advice on the settlement agreements, which are typically negotiated to avoid potential lawsuits. All three workers were at-will employees, meaning they could be terminated at any time.

Founded by an act of the Legislature, MassHousing is a quasi-public state agency that raises money by selling bonds and using the proceeds to finance affordable housing.  The authority has 350 employees and $7 billion in assets under management.

MassHousing spokesman Eric Gedstad said the agency would not comment on personnel matters, but noted that the authority generates its own revenue and does not use taxpayer dollars.

The settlement agreements were released grudgingly by MassHousing in response to public records requests. The authority initially demanded $140 to cover its costs in producing the documents, but scaled the fee back to $54 after an appeal was filed with Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees the Public Records Law.

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After the fee was paid, MassHousing released the documents in September but with the former employees’ names and titles redacted, claiming the so-called privacy exemption of the Public Records Law. The redactions were appealed to Galvin’s office, which ruled the documents should be released in their original form. (MassHousing subsequently refunded most of the $54 charge once Galvin’s disallowed the redactions.)

“MassHousing erred in redacting identifying information in [the] settlement agreements,” wrote Shawn Williams, Galvin’s supervisor of public records at the time. “There is a strong public interest in monitoring public expenditures and public employees have a diminished expectation of privacy with respect to public employment.”