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Agency leader resigns, will receive severance

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The leader of a Franklin organization created and funded by the city has resigned and will receive a severance package of up to $24,500.

Franklin Development Corp. chief executive officer Craig Wells resigned from the position he’s had since 2009. The resignation was a mutual agreement between Wells and board members, board president Larry Koenes said.

Franklin city officials have pushed to have more involvement in the nonprofit organization, which was originally started with more than $5 million in tax dollars from the city’s tax-increment financing districts, which set aside property taxes collected from businesses for economic development.

The group was created to provide loans and grants to help homeowners and businesses fix up their properties and attract new business to the city, especially in the downtown. City officials and board members are working to reorganize the notfor-profit agency to give the city more control over who serves on the board and how the tax dollars are being spent.

The city will take over management of the group’s loans and grants after Wells’ last day on Monday until board members make decisions on the setup and future of the organization.

Wells’ severance package includes payments for unused vacation days as well as parting money for his past service to the organization, Koenes said. The total being paid to Wells was limited to a maximum $24,500, board attorney Rob Schafstall said at a meeting on Thursday.

The agreement was being negotiated with Wells. Koenes did not know whether the agreement had been finalized or other details, he said. Schafstall was not available Thursday or Friday.

Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said he didn’t know Wells was resigning or that he would get a severance package.

Wells was hired as chief executive officer in 2009, and his starting salary was $85,000 plus health insurance and benefits. He was responsible for day-to-day operations, including managing loan and grant requests and bookkeeping for the organization.

With the upcoming changes, Wells and board members agreed to the resignation, Koenes said. Wells was not available Thursday or Friday.

City officials want to be more involved in the agency’s board and in deciding how tax dollars should be spent. Some of the changes could include giving the city more power to name and replace board members and limiting board members’ terms to one to three years. No decision had been made on whether the organization should have a full-time chief executive officer position.

City officials had questioned whether the group had enough money to continue operating. Koenes has said that the organization would have run out of money for operating expenses, including Wells’ salary, before the end of the year. The group was given three years’ worth of operating funds but was able to run for more than four years from the original money and funds generated through interest and donations, Koenes said.

Franklin community development director Krista Linke will oversee the grants and loans the nonprofit has issued for now, Koenes said. He was unsure whether the group might hire a new director in the future or contract with someone to manage the group’s finances and operations.

Board members will meet in July and discuss whether to change the bylaws to allow the mayor or city council to appoint the board. Members serving on the development corporation board are elected by current members.

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