Daily Archives: October 9, 2015

Adventures in voluntary buyouts: Volunteer, or you will be volunteered

Remember when Gannett announced a new round of early retirement incentives aimed at cutting the numbers of senior (i.e. high-cost) staff? Well, the deadline is almost upon us. And apparently, not enough Gannetteers are volunteering.

The offer, for those just joining us, was open to staffers 55 or older, or who had at least 15 years’ seniority in the company. Employees with 25 years or more seniority would get two weeks’ pay per year of service (capped at 52 weeks’ pay); those with 15 to 25 years seniority would get 1.5 weeks’ pay per year. Vermont’s Gannett outlet, the Burlington Free Press, has some notable Olds on its masthead, including Mike Donoghue, Michael Townsend, and Aki Soga, who would presumably qualify for the gilded plank.

Last week, Gannett’s Chief People Officer (I kid you not; that’s his actual title) David Harmon sent a letter to all staff, reminding them that the deadline for this offer is Monday, October 12. And delivering some unsubtle hints that so far, enthusiasm for the offer has been less fulsome than expected.

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VTGOP Chair still beatin’ that dead horse

One week ago today, Vermont Republican Party Chair David Sunderland publicly embarrassed himself in an attempt at some cheap publicity. He sent a letter to Secretary of State Jim Condos complaining that an Elections Office staffer had posted a comment on a “hyper-partisan, far left blog” (I blush) revealing “a concerning political bias.”

He simultaneously released the letter to the media and posted it on the VTGOP website without giving Condos the opportunity to respond. By doing so, Sunderland made it clear that he was looking to stir up trouble rather than seek resolution.

Condos almost immediately replied, and it was a complete smackdown of Sunderland’s complaint. Condos had been aware of the posting before Sunderland, and had already spoken to the employee, asking him to respect the office and its need to be even-handed in conducting electoral business. There is, of course, no legal way to constrain state employees from exercising their free speech rights, so Condos merely asked for some discretion. And, as Sunderland himself admitted, he has frequently dealt with the administrator and has never seen a hint of partisan bias in the man’s work.

Well, Sunderland isn’t the kind to give up on a controversy just because he’s wrong. And indeed, he sent Condos a follow-up letter earlier this week and simultaneously released it to the media. This time, the media wisely ignored the thing.

Condos replied to Sunderland the following day; I received Condos’ letter through a public records request.

Sunderland’s second missive makes it clear that his real target is not the administrator in question; indeed, he drops any demand for action against the administrator. What he really wants is to fabricate an issue to use against Condos, a Democrat who has been the closest thing to unbeatable since he first won the office in 2010.

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