Gulch, who was chief for about 10 years, agreed to step down in December, 2007, following a strained relationship with Mayor Marge Brown. The city placed Gulch on administrative leave, with full pay and benefits, until he officially retired in May.
The lawsuit states that the city did not pay Gulch half of his accrued sick leave benefit, which is paid to all city officials who retire.
The city owes Gulch $36,934.48, or half of his accrued sick leave, according to the lawsuit.
“Gulch has demanded that the city pay him the full amount of his accrued sick leave benefit and the city has refused to do so,” states the lawsuit.
Oregon Law Director Paul Goldberg said the city did not pay Gulch half of his accrued sick leave because he did not retire. Instead, he became employed by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Department.
“In his agreement to leave the city, there’s a clause about his transfer of sick leave benefits, in which the city agreed to pay him, in a lump sum, the value of 50 percent of his accrued sick leave benefit payable to retiring employees, pursuant to the policy and past practice of the city,” said Goldberg. “The city has a policy in which people who retire from the city are entitled to half of their accrued sick leave. But if you quit and take another job, you don’t get it because you didn’t retire.”
Goldberg said the policy is “kind of a reward for people who have been with the city a long time who are retiring, and who haven’t used a sick leave.”
If the employee takes a job with another government entity in the state, the city will transfer the sick leave benefit, said Goldberg.
“The dispute here is that Gulch had so many sick days, and he sent a letter to the city saying he was retiring with the expectation he was going to get paid for half these days. The city’s position is pretty clear. Had he actually retired, we would have given him a check. But that’s not what he did. He never actually retired. He’s working for the sheriff now. He started another job on the same retirement system. We agree to transfer the sick leave, but not pay him for it,” said Goldberg.
As chief, the city and Gulch paid into the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), said Goldberg.
“Had he actually retired, and submitted his retirement to PERS, and had been receiving benefits, we would have given him a check. That’s what we do for anybody. But that’s not what he did. He never retired. He’s actually working for the sheriff now.”
Gulch is seeking compensatory damages of $36,934.48, pre-judgment interest on the payout amount from June 1, 2008, to the date of payment, attorney fees and costs, and “for such other and further relief as justice and equity may require,” according to the lawsuit.
Gulch, of Brown Road, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Raymond Michael Frank, did not return calls to The Press.