Questions abound about interim swim coach benefits

Several residents were on hand during Thursday’s North Whidbey Park and Recreation District meeting questioning the money provided to the interim swim coach for several months.

A resident attending the public meeting before the five-member elected board was concerned that the vouchers showed the interim coach, Steve Wicher, received more than $2,800 on top of his salary and there were concerns the park district was subsidizing his rent.

Bill Walker, executive director for the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, said vouchers for Wicher are based on receipts from expenses he accrued through February.

He added that the park district subsidized Wicher’s rent during his tenure as interim coach.

After Monday’s meeting, Walker said that he considered the rent as a travel expense.

Wicher was living in Pocatello, Idaho when he took the interim job and he wasn’t able to get out of his rental agreement to move to Oak Harbor for a position that was supposed to last a month and a half, Walker said.

Wicher ended up serving as interim coach for three-and-a-half months.

Parent Carolyn Pape was concerned that the rent subsidy would be considered a “gift” of public funds.

Park Commissioner Steve Hoffmire said he understands people’s concerns and struggles with the idea of having the park district pay anyone’s rent.

He said such a decision should be up to the commissioners to make.

The park district paid Wicher $795 a month for rent.

In addition, the park district also paid a salary of $3,466 a month with no benefits.

Walker said the rent and salary paid for Wicher was under the amount budgeted for the salary and benefits for the swim coach position.

The swim coach has a budgeted salary of $45,000 a year, plus a $262.60 a month retirement contribution plus $1,500 a month in health benefits, which comes to a bit more than $5,500 a month.

Sean Merrill, head of the elected board of commissioners, said that the five-member board needs to examine the agreements made with contract employees in the future.

He added that the park district recently self-reported a bank account issue to the state auditor’s office and had to pay for the agency’s investigation.

Costs for state auditor investigation is tallied at $4,041.

“The last thing we need to do is go before them again,” Merrill said during the meeting.


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