Vince Rongione, who resigned from his $140,000-a-year job as the chief administrative officer of Upper Darby Township in January, signed a severance agreement with the township that will give him his salary and health benefits through July 31.
Council President Brian Burke confirmed Rongione’s salary, saying he will receive $70,000 through July 31 plus $35,000 in healthcare benefits, including medical, dental, and vision for him and his family until the end of the year. According to the agreement, he will also be paid for 25 unused vacation days, information Delaware Valley Journal obtained through a right-to-know request.
The agreement stated, “The parties wish to amicably resolve (Rongione’s) employment” and “to fully resolve any and all potential claims regarding (his) employment with the township and separation from the township without the uncertainties, risk, and expense of litigation and without an admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party.”
In return, Rongione promised not to sue the township and to drop any pending litigation.
Burke panned the agreement, which he noted constraints the township financially as it tries to hire a new chief administrator.
“Was it worth it to the township? No,” said Burke. “Was it worth it to the council? No.” And he added, “The Home Rule Charter said that someone who is fired does not qualify for it.” Instead, he said Rongione should have applied for unemployment insurance payments and COBRA.
However, the settlement with Rongione does not preclude him from filing for unemployment benefits. “Township acknowledges that to the extent permitted by law, it will not take unilateral action to use this agreement to impact employee’s entitlement to unemployment compensation benefits.”
Tom Micozzi, the former mayor, agreed with Burke.
“I don’t understand how an at-will employee, fired by the council, can sue,” said Micozzi. “He’s not the first person who was let go by the council or resigned. How does he get compensated as an at-will employee?”
The agreement required Rongione to write a resignation letter.
Rongione had been embroiled in controversy after the township treasurer gave a presentation in February 2022 alleging that balances of some bank accounts, which held federal American Rescue Plan Act money, were lower than expected.
In June 2022, the council voted to fire Rongione. But in July, Rongione sued the six council members individually who voted to fire him the previous month and remained in his position.
When Rongione, who had the mayor’s backing, did not leave, the council sought a court order to remove him. That case also remains pending, and the severance agreement requires the township to continue to pay Rongione’s attorney fees.
Rongione also promises not to sue the township for age discrimination in the agreement. Burke noted that the age discrimination statute applies after age 40.
With Mayor Barbarann Keffer away for rehab after her recent DUI arrest, Burke issued a statement saying he would step in as acting mayor. Almost immediately, solicitor Sean Kilkenny released a rebuttal claiming Keffer was not actually absent.
After Keffer came to this week’s council meeting via Zoom, Burke relinquished his claim. At the meeting, Kilkenny read an affidavit from Keffer that she would continue her mayoral duties from rehabilitation.