Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Solid Waste Authority chief to retire rather than be fired

Kevin Hendrick, director of the embattled Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, retired as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday after termination of the director's employment was discussed during a closed Authority Board session Tuesday.

"This is a voluntary resignation; the board has expressed an interest in finding new leadership," Hendrick told the Triplicate by phone Wednesday. He said the board gave him until 5 p.m. today to decide whether or not he would take an option to retire.

"For the last 20 years and four months I've worked as an at-will employee, so if at any point the board decides they want to make a change, they can do that," Hendrick said.

He cited "an unreconciled cash deficit" - missing money from the authority's safe - that came to light in the past year as a possible impetus for his precipitated retirement, although he said he was not aware of the cause of the problem.

"I'm the director. If something bad happens while I'm here, it's fair that they can blame me for it," Hendrick said.

During a closed session meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday, the Authority Board will vote on accepting Hendrick's resignation and authorizing three months' pay for Hendrick as severance, in addition to benefits and compensation due as a retired county employee, including health care benefits and pay for unused vacation time.

The board will also vote on the appointment of authority program manager Tedd Ward as interim director of the authority.

Hendrick's pay as director was criticized by board member Mary Wilson during the agency's June board meeting as the agency's budget was discussed.

Wilson called the agency "administratively top heavy."

"We have a very top heavy organization and somebody is paying for that," Wilson said, adding that the garbage and recycling rate increase for businesses are hurting employers and therefore the entire community.

Hendrick received a satisfactory performance evaluation in October 2012 by members of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors and Crescent City Council (when those boards temporarily replaced the Solid Waste Authority Board), but Hendrick received continued criticism for financial issues, including three years of budget deficits from 2008 to 2011, before new franchise rates were implemented, and the recent missing cash situation.

City Councilwoman Kathryn Murray, who was chair of the Solid Waste Authority Board at the time of the new franchise choices, said in June that the old franchise rates were not covering the costs of the newly constructed transfer station. Once the new franchise and transfer station rates were implemented, the deficit was fixed, she said.

Some Authority Board members and community members didn't agree with the new franchise contracts, which charged businesses more in order to keep residential rates low.

The news of the director's retirement travelled quickly, with Hendrick receiving phone calls Wednesday inquiring about his interestin consulting for solid waste issues in the region, Hendrick said.

He said he plans to spend more time onthe county's Coast to Crest trail project, among other activities.

"Twenty years is a long time for any job," he said. "All opportunities are open to me."

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