Web Reveals Dickens Severance Tussle
An NCUA Feb. 25 online posting mistake revealed previously confidential negotiations between disposed U.S. Central FCU Executive Vice President David Dickens, U.S. Central and the regulator.
The posted documents, which included details regarding Dickens' $762,000 separation of employment package, were made public alongside comment letters from credit unions regarding proposed corporate regulations. NCUA spokesman John McKechnie acknowledged the documents were posted erroneously and said the agency regrets the error.
According to the documents, U.S. Central withheld Dickens' severance benefits immediately after he was fired on Feb. 5 due to an investigation into whether his actions could have allowed him to be fired "with cause."
With 18 months of severance pay and Dickens' professional reputation on the line, the 21-year U.S. Central veteran was forced to hire his own legal counsel, so "he would be fairly represented during the course of the investigation, especially in the face of having been fired by a CEO who appeared to be acting on his own personal agenda."
That charge refers to Francis Lee, who was CEO of U.S. Central at the time, but was soon dismissed when the NCUA placed U.S. Central into conservatorship.
After an investigation, it was determined Dickens was fired "without cause" and was due full severance as per his contract, which included 18 months worth of salary and benefits.
A letter from Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage to the NCUA Board was included among the posted items, accusing the NCUA of later reneging on some of Dickens' contract terms.
After conservatorship, the NCUA adjusted the payout to include less accrued time off and took away Dickens' COBRA health insurance premium payments.
McKechnie explained that following U.S. Central's March 2009 conservatorship, the NCUA "thoroughly reviewed" Dickens' separation agreement and determined it was contractually obligated to pay Dickens' post-separation salary and life insurance premiums, as well as the accrued balances in two deferred compensation accounts that had been held in trust for Dickens'.
However, the NCUA disallowed Dickens's claims for post-termination deferred compensation contributions and post-termination health insurance premiums, a specific employer contribution to his deferred compensation plan, payment for the prior year's unused paid time-off and reimbursement of legal fees. Dickens has appealed the disallowed items, he said.
Lathrop & Gage, which represents Dickens, said the investigation determined he was fired "without cause" and, therefore, is entitled to the additional severance benefits requested in the Feb. 19 letter.