METHUEN — The state reluctantly allowed Ken Martin to direct the Methuen Housing Authority 15 years ago in addition to his part-time job as local housing director in Ayer.
Martin's annual salary for both jobs has since ballooned to $183,000. His employment contracts with the Ayer and Methuen housing authorities also include generous perks — including severance clauses guaranteeing him a six-figure lump sum payment in the event he is fired.
Annual one-year extensions to his five-year contracts offer Martin additional job security, according to a review of the contracts obtained by The Eagle-Tribune.
Martin's second director job in Methuen required state approval. But a March 1997 letter from Jane Gumble, then-director of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, to the Methuen and Ayer housing boards shows the state did not fully support the arrangement.
Gumble wrote, in part, "As I have stated previously, the department believes that it would be in the best interest of the MHA to hire an executive director who is able to devote his/her time and attention exclusively to the operations of the Methuen Housing Authority, and who does not have competing responsibilities at another housing authority."
Gumble wrote that DHCD planned to impose several conditions before approving the contract, including requirements that Martin work a minimum 37.5 hours a week in Methuen and 20 hours in Ayer.
Ayer is a town of about 7,400 people located 30 miles southwest of Methuen. Martin, 58, who lives in Dracut, recently said he often works 60 to 70 hours a week between both jobs.
Martin first came to Methuen in 1990 as then-Town Manager Michael McLaughlin's choice for public works director. Martin left the job in the mid-1990s to direct the Methuen Housing Authority.
Martin has also directed the Ayer Housing Authority for the last 29 years.
He remains close friends with McLaughlin, who resigned abruptly Nov. 3 as director of the Chelsea Housing Authority, after it was revealed that for years he had underreported his $360,000 annual salary by $200,000 to the DHCD.
As a result, compensation for housing authority directors is now under heightened scrutiny. DHCD gave local housing boards until Friday to recertify their budgets and director contracts.
Martin signed his first employment contract with the Methuen Housing Authority in 1997. The two-year deal set his salary at $55,718.
Several items in that contract remain in his current agreement with the Methuen Housing Authority, including reimbursement for work-related expenses, travel, transportation and hotels.
As he did in 1997, Martin also still annually receives 15 sick days, 15 vacation days and three personal days. He is permitted to carry over unused days from year to year and now has a clause calling for the Methuen authority to buy back three weeks each year as part of his compensation.
Martin has identical leave benefits in Ayer, excluding the buyback provision, bringing his total to 30 sick days, 30 vacation days and six personal days each year between both director jobs.
Martin signed five-year contracts with both Methuen and Ayer in 2005.
In Ayer, his contract states that the employment agreement "shall automatically (be) extended every year for an additional year," unless the local housing board gives him 90-day written notice.
In Methuen, local housing board Chairman Robert Sheehan said the board typically grants Martin an annual one-year extension to his five-year contract. He said Martin is currently under contract until Dec. 31, 2016.
Sheehan said the board has already approved a 4 percent raise and one-year extension for Martin in its current budget, but is awaiting DHCD approval for both. The raise will bring Martin's annual salary in Methuen from $124,000 to $129,000. The extension will bump the contract expiration to Dec. 31, 2017.
Such annual extensions combined with identical severance clauses in both contracts guarantee that Martin, in the event he is fired, will receive a lump sum equivalent to five years of pay and benefits.
If Martin "remains willing to perform his duties," but is removed from his job, both the Methuen and Ayer boards have agreed to pay "a lump sum cash severance payment equal to the balance of pay and benefits due for the entire completion of the five-year contract," according to both contracts.
In Methuen, that would translate to a lump sum of $645,000 based on Martin's salary alone. Martin makes about $53,000 a year as Ayer's part-time housing director, according to DHCD data. That translates to a severance payment of at least $265,000.
By contrast, Martin's initial Methuen contract stated he could be terminated immediately "without any further obligation except to pay the executive director for salary earned prior to said termination or cancellation."
Martin's initial 1997 contract also called for reimbursement of 22 cents per mile while driving his own vehicle for work. But that changed in 2003, when he began driving a Methuen Housing Authority vehicle for work and personal use.
Martin now drives a 2009 Jeep issued by the Methuen authority.
Neither of Martin's contracts in Methuen and Ayer list specific salary information.
In addition to working both director jobs, Martin is a 25-year veteran of the Dracut Housing Authority board and currently serves as chairman.
He is in charge of approximately 1,100 units and federal subsidies in both Methuen and Ayer.
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