BAKERSFIELD - Kern Medical Center's former C.E.O. will get paid even though he was fired. That's because Paul Hensler was involuntarily terminated. But, could the county have gone a different route and avoided the payout?
As part of Hensler's contract, the only way he would not get severance is if he was terminated for cause. You may think the hospital's $64 million budget shortfall is cause, but it may not be that simple.
Hensler's contract stipulates he could be terminated for cause for five reasons. They include: disclosure of confidential information, conviction of a felony, commission of unlawful activity, commission of fraud or embezzlement, and negligence.
According to Hensler's contract, the C.E.O. can only be found negligent if he fails to follow specific direction from the board. In this case, the board fired Hensler immediately after discovering the hospital's fiscal crisis, giving Hensler no time to correct the problem.
This means for the next seven months Hensler will be paid the remaining $227,000 from his $395,000 annual salary.
Bakersfield employment attorney Jerry Pearson said contracts like this are common.
"It's also common that for those employees that have contracts that that have a stipulation in the contract if they get severance if they are not terminated for cause and not get severance if they are terminated for cause," said Pearson.
Hensler's contract also states since the former C.E.O. is collecting a severance he cannot sue the county.
Kern County refused to comment on this case saying it is a personnel matter. The Board of Supervisors is expected to appoint an interim CEO Tuesday.